Jamie Chadwick

Jamie Chadwick held off INDY NXT by Firestone championship favorites Louis Foster and Jacob Abel on June 9 in the Grand Prix of Road America.

Foster and Abel had split the four previous races on the schedule, but Chadwick halted that streak. She became the first woman to win a pole on a road or street course in INDY NXT by Firestone history June 8 and never relinquished that spot in the race.

English driver Chadwick led all 20 laps from the pole in the No. 28 VEXT car of Andretti Global to become the first female winner in INDY NXT since Pippa Mann in September 2010 at Kentucky Speedway, beating Foster to victory by .8203 of a second. Ana Beatriz is the other female winner in the series, with single victories in 2008 and 2009. Chadwick is the first female to win an INDY NXT race on a road or street course, as Beatriz and Mann won on ovals.

Those accomplishments are something Chadwick admitted she wasn’t physically able to do as a rookie in 2023. The three-time W Series champion last drove a race car weighing 1,245 pounds with power steering and 270 horsepower.

Coming to America and finding the daunting task of driving a race car without power steering was a wake-up call. Wrestling a 450 horsepower INDY NXT by Firestone machine that weights approximately 1,410-1,430 pounds, without fuel and driver weight, was challenging.

With 14 races of experience last season, Chadwick was aware of where she needed to strengthen her body to withstand the rigors of racing in the INDYCAR development series. She devoted a lot of time in the gym during the offseason.

“I’m a lot stronger this year,” Chadwick said. “I feel different.”

The other byproduct was finding a comfort level. Her average finish jumped from 13.5 to 10.38 over the final eight races of the 2023 season, scoring five top-10 finishes.

“Halfway through last year, we started to really turn a corner,” Chadwick said. “Just to put that further into this season is the difference. I feel confident. I ask for different things in the car, I know what’s coming, I know the tracks. All that stuff makes a big difference.

“Last year was a super competitive year in this championship. It's hard to make progress throughout the year.”

Unfortunately, bad luck struck Chadwick for a majority of the races early in the 2024 season. She qualified 10th, fifth, sixth, sixth and fourth, respectively, but had one top-10 finish to show for it, a third-place finish in Race 1 of the Indianapolis doubleheader weekend. Chadwick wasn’t able to produce results for many reasons, most out of her control.

Road America was never out of her control. That’s just how she likes it.

“It's a lot harder being in the pack because you're attacking and being attacked,” she said. “Making right decisions in a championship like this isn't easy. I felt like I was in the best place. I was pretty comfortable.”

Chadwick spoke like a seasoned veteran when describing her tactics throughout the 20-lap race. She wanted Foster and Abel to fight on track for second behind her as much as possible. So, she would purposely back up whoever was running behind her to third place. She trusted the pace in her car so when she got to the higher-speed portions of the 4.014-mile track, she could pull away again.

That mindset allowed Chadwick to make a big step to the top of the podium at Road America. She expects to be a front-runner over the final eight races of the season.

“Normally, before this weekend, I felt like there was a bit of a gap to these two (Foster, Abel),” she said. “Now, we're closing that gap. After today, especially I think, we can try to always be up with these two as much as we can. If I can compete wheel to wheel with these guys, then I know I'm in a good place. That's all I care about.

“I feel a lot more comfortable out front than I’ve ever felt all year.”