Three-wide contact at Turn 1 dashes Indy 500 hopes for Bell, Carpenter, Hinchcliffe

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A three-wide passing attempt involving Ed Carpenter, James Hinchcliffe and Townsend Bell at Turn 1 was probably the most dramatic incident of this year’s Indianapolis 500, as it ended in contact.

Front row starters Carpenter and Hinchcliffe exchanged the lead over the first 29 laps from the front row and generally stayed in the top five to 10 for the remainder of the race.

Meanwhile Bell charged up to the top-10 from 25th on the grid by Lap 50, and survived an early moment of contact with defending Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan on the front straight. Bell fought through the contact despite his toe being knocked out on the left rear, and he stayed in the top 12 or so for the rest of the race.

On a Lap 176 restart, eventual winner Ryan Hunter-Reay lead from Carpenter in second, Bell in third and Hinchcliffe in fourth.

As the latter trio dove into Turn 1, Bell went to Carpenter’s outside and the two carried the momentum through the corner entry, with Hinchcliffe then attempting to make a move to the inside.

Bell contacted Carpenter, and Hinchcliffe also got into Carpenter. Bell made it through but the other two were done on the spot.

Despite some earlier good banter between Carpenter and Hinchcliffe earlier this week in Indianapolis 500 media advances, Carpenter did not approve of Hinchcliffe’s move.

“Hinch tried to make it three-wide in Turn 1 with 25 laps to go. Not a smart move,” Carpenter said. “It wrecked both of our races. It wasn’t a green-white-checkered situation.

“Of all the guys out there, I wouldn’t have thought it would be Hinch. I am pretty good friends with him and those guys at Andretti. I think he just didn’t use his head right then.”

Hinchcliffe, meanwhile, took the high road and apportioned blame to both himself and Bell, while excusing Carpenter.

“I was the last guy on the scene. From where I was, I thought it could have been the last restart, last stint for sure and you have to go for it,” Hinchcliffe explained. “Ed pulled out and Ed gave me the room initially. I honestly don’t think Townsend knew we were three-wide. I was the last guy there so I need to take a portion of the blame.

“I didn’t think Townsend would hold the outside, because you can’t do that here. You’d be in the gray,” he added. “That’s how it played out, where he hit Ed and Ed hit me. It’s 100 percent not Ed’s fault. He had a great month. I’m gutted for the guy.”

Bell tended to agree more with Hinchcliffe’s take on the situation.

“I got hit by Ed. I had no idea Hinch was there… so I left enough room for Ed,” he told MotorSportsTalk.

While the two front-row starters were out on the spot, Bell still had a shot to win in what was one of his best career Indianapolis 500 drives. Sadly his contact with the SAFER barrier in Turn 2 took him out of the race on Lap 191. It also precipitated a red flag, and set up the race for a thrilling finish.

With all said and done, Bell ended 25th, Carpenter 27th and Hinchcliffe 28th. And for all three, it was a case of “what could have been.”

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.