Pagenaud primed for big month of May with Team Penske

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INDIANAPOLIS – This is an important month ahead for Simon Pagenaud.

Thus far, the Frenchman and his No. 22 team at Team Penske have started to gel, and although top results have thus far eluded them, Pagenaud is happy with the early season progress through four races.

“It’s going pretty well, actually,” Pagenaud said in a teleconference last week. “Unfortunately the results don’t really show the performance. But that’s the growing pain of a new team, you know.

“On the 22 side, we have new people, people that have not worked together that now are working together. So there’s a need for transitioning, a need to understand how to optimize everybody and get the best out of everybody at each race.

“So far, I think I’m pretty satisfied with the performance. We just need to execute fully.”

Through four races, Pagenaud is one of only two drivers (teammate Helio Castroneves) with four top-five starts in as many races. But the finishes haven’t matched up, with fifth, 20th, fourth and ninth on the books thus far, and only five laps led while Will Power (75), Juan Pablo Montoya (59) and Castroneves (51) have a large amount more.

Pagenaud enters this weekend’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis as defending race champion.

The win came via a mix of weekend pace – Pagenaud was consistently one of the fastest cars during practice before the rain-interrupted qualifying session – and then pit strategy, when Pagenaud’s then-Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports crew ensured he had enough fuel to last the distance.

It also established him as a championship contender for the season, which he carried through to the season finale at Auto Club Speedway in August.

This weekend, now in DeVilbiss colors aboard his No. 22 car (expected to be a mix of orange and white), Pagenaud thinks he should be off to a good start.

“We already have four races behind us, and I feel a little bit like Brad (Keselowski, Team Penske NASCAR Sprint Cup driver) actually,” Pagenaud said. “I feel like going into Indy Grand Prix where we won last year is a really good opportunity for us to maybe unlock what has been going on for us.

“So the month of May is really exciting, especially with this announcement today with HP and Avaya. So it’s all very good news for us at Team Penske.”

After the car is orange and white for DeVilbiss this weekend, it will morph into red and white – more traditional Penske colors – for Avaya for the first of four races.

It was announced last week Avaya will be primary sponsor of the No. 22 car at the Indianapolis 500, Texas, Toronto and Sonoma races – the latter making big sense from a Silicon Valley/Northern California perspective.

“I really want to welcome HP and Avaya to Team Penske,” Pagenaud said. “It’s truly an honor to represent them, and be an ambassador of their brand. So it’s certainly a perfect fit. I mean communication in racing is such an important thing, especially with our schedule being so tight in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“When we come back to the shop or on the road, we need communication to be as fast as possible and as efficient as we can make it. So it is a really, really good fit. But also the IndyCar Series is becoming so sophisticated that having the opportunity to work with Avaya is a perfect partner to Penske for this.”

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.