IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Sebastian Saavedra

AP
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series in the part-timer ranks. Next up is Sebastian Saavedra, who did better than anticipated in a handful of outings for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Sebastian Saavedra, Nos. 8 and 17 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 21st Place, Best Finish 9th, 1 Pole, 1 Top-10, 14 Laps Led, 17.2 Avg. Start, 16.9 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 10th, Best Start 8th, 12 Laps Led, 14.6 Avg. Start, 15.8 Avg. Finish

Saavedra seems to have more opportunities than most in IndyCar and in Gary Peterson, a father figure whose Automatic Fire Sprinklers support has been constant for the better part of four different seasons. The Saavedra/AFS partnership continued and moved onto Chip Ganassi Racing this year, which was a marriage of convenience – it kept the Leaders’ Circle-entered No. 8 Chevrolet he shared with Sage Karam on the grid for all 16 races and provided Saavedra his first real shot of a top-flight car.

He was pretty impressive all year given his limited opportunities, even if his results fully didn’t show it. The California book-ends were the best races, with a top-10 finish at Long Beach after zero preseason testing, and leading 12 laps on a different tire strategy en route to 13th at Sonoma. Making it into Q2 in three of four races was also very good to see, and spoke of a driver working well with his engineer and teammates.

Having been around for nearly 60 career starts over parts of six seasons, it’s fair to reference Denny Green’s infamous post-game speech after the Arizona Cardinals blew a 23-point lead to the Chicago Bears and say Saavedra “is who we thought he is.” But in the Colombian’s case, it means Saavedra’s a serviceable, nice, smarter than you realize driver with phenomenal spiked hair, who is a decent – if not superstar – shoe.

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.