Drag racer Ron Capps doesn’t let hurricane stop Hawaii appearance

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When you drive a car that produces nearly 10,000 horsepower and reaches speeds approaching 330 mph, a hurricane with wind speeds over 100 mph is nothing.

That was the case Sunday for NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps.

The veteran racer makes a yearly goodwill trip to the Hawaiian islands to check out a very robust drag racing scene there, meet with fans and fellow racers and enjoy the normally great weather.

While the weather didn’t exactly cooperate Sunday, with Hurricane Ana threatening the islands, Capps still went ahead with his first-ever appearance on the island of Kauai.

And just like Capps, drag racing fans on the island didn’t let the weather deter them from seeing one of the NHRA’s biggest stars, showing up in force at PS&D Napa Auto & Truck Parts store in Lihue.

“We were not going to cancel the appearance,” store owner Gail Shigematsu told the Garden Island newspaper. “We worked hard for this.

“For several years, we wanted him, but couldn’t get him. Now, he cancelled his Maui appearance and is going to be on the Big Island. We were not going to cancel.”

The local Garden Isle Racing Association (GIRA) had been trying to get Capps to visit Kauai for several years and finally succeeded this year.

In turn, Capps helped the association’s fund-raising efforts, including autographing and auctioning off a the shirt he wore in his 43rd career win at this year’s rain-delayed Brainerd (Minnesota) race.

Because of the weather and scheduling, the final round of the Brainerd race was relocated and held the following week prior to the U.S. Nationals in suburban Indianapolis.

By the time Hurricane Ana neared the Kauai coastline, it had been downgraded to a tropical storm, but still brought heavy rains and a flash flood watch in its wake.

But that didn’t keep the hearty drag racing fans from turning out en masse.

“With this kind of response, hopefully, he’ll see it in his heart to come back and visit again,” Shigematsu said.

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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.