Houston Update: Temporary chicane installed at Turn 1, grinding set for tonight

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UPDATE (6:57 p.m. ET): INDYCAR has announced that qualifying for tomorrow’s Race 1 will follow the same format as that of Race 2. That means the drivers will be separated into two groups, with each group getting 12 minutes each to throw down their best laps. The overall sessions will remain at 30 minutes.

Earlier today, INDYCAR president of competition Brian Barnhart said that a temporary chicane was installed at Turn 1 to allow track time for all of the series at Reliant Park.

Additionally, course designer Martyn Thake also said that grinding will take place at Turn 1 later this evening for a more permanent solution to the problem that has delayed this morning’s on-track activity.

“It’s been a unique challenge the last 96 hours turning the parking lot into a race track right after the Texans’ game [on Sunday], with so many things moving and interlocking at the same time,” Thake said. “It was very hard to get a full assessment of the surface.

“…The area where we’re experiencing problems right now is actually the area where the Texans keep their field between games. This concrete hasn’t actually been driven on for six, seven years. It’s an area we were unable to explore too closely until we were able to take over the facility and the [time] pressure of the construction prevented us from doing any in-depth testing.”

Thake anticipates that a full day of racing will be had on Saturday after the grinding is complete.

In the days leading up to the race weekend, workers had been thrashing to get this temporary layout set up following the conclusion of last Sunday’s aforementioned NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans at nearby Reliant Stadium. The stadium is positioned outside Turn 6 of the course.

The delay resulted in an altered schedule, with the IndyCars’ original 90-minute practice session broken into two 45-minute blocks – one from 2-2:45 p.m. ET and another from 5:30-6:15 p.m. ET.

Qualifying for Saturday’s IndyCar Race 1 and Sunday’s Race 2 were pushed back to those respective mornings. There will be no Firestone Fast Six sessions this weekend.

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

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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.