NASCAR outlaws the practice of flared fender side skirts

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There’ll be no skirting the issue of side skirts in NASCAR in 2015.

Prior to NASCAR Chairman Brian France’s State of the Sport address Monday afternoon, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell made it very clear that the manipulation of side skirts will not be allowed in 2015.

Several teams pulled out the side skirts in front of the rear wheels – particularly the right “passenger” side of the car – during pit stops last season to achieve what they believed might be a slight aerodynamic benefit, essentially turning the side skirts into a type of fender flare.

The action was typically done on the first pit stop of a race because a car has to have the side skirts straight and in conformity with NASCAR templates and rules during pre-race inspection.

The practice was used by only a few teams initially, but became more commonplace later in the season – particularly during the Chase for the Sprint Cup – as teams believed the flared side skirts allowed for better airflow, particularly over the rear of the car.

NASCAR did not stop the practice last season, but promised a review during the offseason. That review is now complete and flaring of side skirts will not be allowed in 2015.

Here’s what O’Donnell had to say about the new rule prohibiting the side skirt manipulation practice:

It was a much-discussed topic from last year, side skirts. As many of you know, we deliberately decided against any changes near the end of last season.

So in 2015, teams manipulating the fenders or flares during a race will be asked to come back down pit road (to essentially un-flare the side skirts) and we’ll use any means possible to police that, particularly our new pit road officiating system.

We’ll look at that through video and any means possible during the race season.”

O’Donnell did not discuss what, if any penalties will result against teams that violate the new rule

The practice and subsequent new rule against it came after NASCAR consulted with many teams.

“One important note is we looked a lot with our race teams, to talk about what was the best way to do that, and this is where we landed heading into the 2015 season,” O’Donnell said. “We continue to work towards a goal of fair, tight competition, offering our fans the best racing in the world and all of our expectations for competition heading into the Daytona 500 are that it’ll be even better this year.

“We’re not going to rest for 2015, ‘16 or ‘17, but we look forward to continued progress towards that best racing.”

After O’Donnell’s speech, NASCAR Executive Vice President of Competition, Robin Pemberton gave additional clarity to the new rule:

The adjustment on the side skirts and body side, there’s many opinions on it and there’s not really consensus, but when you look at what that is for and that is to change the aerodynamic balance of the car.

We know when we go to Goodyear tire tests that the cars aren’t tested in that way. That is not something that is modeled in any way shape or form or tested.

To be correct with the entire garage area and all of our vendors and suppliers and other people we work with, it’s best to just regulate and keep it in as in the box as we can.”

Pemberton was also asked why NASCAR didn’t outlaw the practice during last season.

“It got to the point where we didn’t feel comfortable with making a change of how we regulated the sport in the middle of the Chase,” Pemberton said. “It’s as simple as that.

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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.