IndyCar Driver Review: Juan Pablo Montoya

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MotorSportsTalk continues its driver-by-driver review of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season. In P4 was the man who brought back his A-game upon his open-wheel racing return, Juan Pablo Montoya…

2014 SEASON PREVIEW

Juan Pablo Montoya

  • Team: Team Penske
  • 2013: NASCAR
  • 2014: 4th Place, 1 Win, 1 Pole, 4 Podiums, 8 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 167 Laps Led, 10.7 Avg. Start, 9.7 Avg. Finish

On the whole, Juan Pablo Montoya’s return to IndyCar after a 14-year hiatus must be considered a massive success. I would have pegged him maybe eighth to 10th in the points preseason, and I wasn’t sure he’d win a race. Fourth, with a win, certainly exceeded my projections and I’m guessing a number of other paddock observers.

For the first time in years, there was a consistently sunny, almost charming disposition about the Colombian compared to the dour, “let’s just get on with it” mentality that seemed to pervade his NASCAR career and waning years in F1. Montoya was energized and revitalized by the challenge of coming back to a series he’d ran roughshod over in 1999 and 2000, and seeing whether he still “had it.”

Quite simply, he did. I knew he was “back” when I saw him trackside at St. Petersburg for the season opener and in practice he caught a loose slide at the same level of laser precision he did when he was on the edge of adhesion in CART, with much higher horsepower cars. His first race back, Montoya qualified only 18th and finished 15th; this proved he still he had some ways to go but was determined to get there.

Rather than throw in the towel and mail it in, Montoya got better and better week-by-week as he came to grips with Firestone’s softer red alternate tires, even if his road and street course qualifying left something to be desired. He led 167 laps from five of the six oval races and scored the most points in the field both on ovals and in double points races (342 and 251, respectively). It was one of his most impressive seasons in a career that has featured so many accolades.

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.