Barber weekend, Sunday notes for PWC, MRTI

Photo: Cadillac Racing

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – There are three races today beyond the Verizon IndyCar Series and the first of those is in the books this morning, the Pirelli World Challenge GT/GTA/GT Cup second race this year.

Here’s that report, below, before two Mazda Road to Indy races for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires:

Michael Cooper has parlayed his early season pace and results into his first win in the GT class, driving the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R in PWC.

The past GTS (2015) and TC (2012) class champion used excellent defense against Saturday winner Alvaro Parente in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3, after getting by the Portuguese driver on the start.

Once ahead, Cooper scythed through traffic and used slower GT Cup class cars to his advantage to beat Parente home.

“After making a slight mistake at the start yesterday, I was determined to get it right today,” said Cooper. “I knew that the race was going to be won or lost at the start, so I dared greatly to move on the outside and I was able to take the lead heading into Turn 2.

“I knew from being behind Alvaro yesterday how hard it would be to put a move on and get passed. I just tried to be aware that he might be setting me up for big dive-bomb maneuver, but he is a pro and it never came.

“It is still a little surreal that I just got my first win for Cadillac. I think it will set in later. It is absolutely awesome to come through the ranks of World Challenge and get a win at the top level.”

Two more sports car veterans were third and fourth, with Johnny O’Connell in the No. 3 Cadillac ahead of Patrick Long in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Martin Fuentes inherited the GTA win, his seventh in as many races, after Frankie Montecalvo slowed with mechanical issues in the final 10 minutes.

Meanwhile Alec Udell took the GTC win for his second win in as many days.

The 50-minute race ran caution free and was a better showcase for the series after tough races in St. Petersburg and Long Beach, and with a couple yellows also interrupting the flow of the first Barber race on Saturday.

Here’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, a two-time Barber winner, presenting country music star/singer/songwriter Sara Evans with a commemorative milk bottle. Evans is the race’s grand marshal today.

The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race was a similar story as it has been in the three previous races: two Team Pelfrey teammates 1-2 with Pato O’Ward leading home Aaron Telitz for the third time in four races this year. Garett Grist finished third for Juncos Racing, same as he did on Saturday.

The one other key moment this race involved the other Pelfrey Pro Mazda driver, Weiron Tan, who survived a barrel roll of an accident following apparent contact with Jake Parsons of Juncos. Parsons endured something of a nightmare weekend and was at least able to complete one lap, while Tan was done on the spot.

Both KVSH Racing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have announced plans for a press conference on Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. ET, to announce a driver and sponsor combination for the third KVSH car (Sebastien Bourdais for KVSH, and Matthew Brabham for PIRTEK Team Murray the other two) for this year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

If you read this post yesterday, you’ll have an idea on who that driver is expected to be.

Prior to the IndyCar race, Santiago Urrutia won his first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race to make it five winners in as many races. The Pro Mazda champion follows Felix Serralles, Felix Rosenqvist, Kyle Kaiser and Ed Jones to win this year. That quick report is broken out into a separate post from the AP, here.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023


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.