Ganassi: IndyCar needs to target next generation of engineers

Associated Press
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As Chip Ganassi and his eponymous Chip Ganassi Racing Teams continues one of its busiest seasons on record, with programs in two NASCAR divisions, two sports car series, IndyCar and likely the Red Bull GRC series, Ganassi is hopeful that the Verizon IndyCar Series can attract the next generation of talent from a technical standpoint beyond the next generation of drivers.

Ganassi has already created a next-generation talent-spotting program of the team’s own called Generation Ganassi, or Gen G for short. It identifies teens ages 13 to 18 as potential “Ones to Watch” and will offer them professional guidance throughout the sport.

When it comes to looking for engineers and other young crewmembers, Ganassi is hopeful IndyCar can take the lead in making the series more intriguing for youngsters.

“We need to have young people and engineers in development,” Ganassi told NBC Sports during a roundtable meeting of media members at St. Petersburg.

“There are some great engineering minds out there. There are the 3D printers out there now, and that could be a way that does the cars. There’s a million ways this sport can go that are untapped right now.

“I’ve said this before, why can’t we have a system, if we want to do some development, you go to the IndyCar.com website, access a drawing of a piece of suspension and say, ‘Do better that that.’

“You’d engage every engineering school in the world if you had a system where it was, ‘Let’s pick an item on car, with suspension development, where you can go on and access the drawing, and as long as you can come in at a better price, you’d have the engineer or backyard guy who thought he was smart, engaged in the sport.’”

Ganassi said having the Ford GT program in sports cars – done in partnership with Ford and Canadian engineering juggernaut Multimatic – has been a reinvigoration of sorts. Even so, technical regulations there limit the amount of creative freedom one can make.

“It’s an exciting program that has some development potential to it,” Ganassi said.

“Again there, you’re hamstrung with homologation rules. You submit something and it has to be good for the next 27 years,” he joked.

With possible enhanced head protection as a key talking point in motorsports this year, Ganassi said next year’s Indianapolis 500 – the 2017 edition, and the 101st running – would make sense as a place to debut any new components.

“Maybe that’s the debut of something new; the next step,” he said.

Ganassi also took the time to note the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been in the “Centennial Era” for the better part of eight years – from 2009 through 2016.

IMS outlined the three-year period from 2009 to 2011 as its actual “Centennial Era,” with the 2011 Indianapolis 500 the 100-year anniversary of the first ‘500, albeit only the 95th running. This year’s 100th running owes to the fact five years were lost during World War II.

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.