IndyCar champs seek fence changes


NASCAR dodged a major bullet last Saturday in its Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Despite the multicar accident on the last lap that sent substantial debris into the grandstands, including Kyle Larson’s engine, the 28 fans injured have all survived. The two fans who were in critical condition were upgraded to stable.

After the accident, there’s been renewed discussion about the safety of catch fencing at race tracks.

IndyCar drivers Dario Franchitti and Ryan Hunter-Reay each chimed in on the situation. They’ve seen the effects of these type accidents first-hand, as they had to deal with the loss of Dan Wheldon at IndyCar’s 2011 season finale in Las Vegas when Wheldon’s car struck a post on the inside of the catch fencing.

“it’s time @Indycar @nascar other sanctioning bodies & promoters work on an alternative to catch fencing. There has to be a better solution,” Franchitti tweeted Saturday. “@indycar @nascar give the engineers and scientists a budget and they’ll find a fix. they did it with the safer barrier…”

Meanwhile, the defending IndyCar champion told USA Today Sports that, up-front costs aside, something can be done to improve this safety aspect.

“The fence acts as a cheese grater, and the car is the cheese,” Hunter-Reay said. “When it gets airborne, the fence tears it up into pieces. It’s an industry-wide problem, and one we can fix quickly. It would be revolutionary for the sport, and it’s at the forefront of what we’ve been talking about for five years.”

There were two instances in IndyCar where fans were killed from debris going over the fence in the late 1990s. A CART-sanctioned race at Michigan International Speedway in 1998 saw three deaths after a tire that came loose from Adrian Fernandez’s car went over the wall. In an Indy Racing League event the following year at Charlotte, three spectators were also killed when more debris went into the stands. Wheel tethers were later added to the cars.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023


Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.