Rahal falls short of two in a row at Mid-Ohio, but earns fifth top-5 of 2016

(Photo courtesy IndyCar/Chris Jones)
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It wasn’t the repeat win he was looking for, but Graham Rahal still had a strong showing and finish in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The Ohio native started sixth and finished fourth in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Steak ‘n Shake Honda, his fifth top-five finish of the season.

It’s a good rebound from his last two races, finishing a season-worst (tied) 16th at Iowa and 13th at Toronto.

And in doing so at his home track, the Ohio native also climbed from 11th to ninth in the Verizon IndyCar Series point standings.

Sunday’s race was one where Rahal found himself kind of in a vortex of sorts at the start.

“It’s a case of starting up front,” Rahal told NBCSN in a post-race interview. “That’s the truth. When you start up front, you can’t really risk things, and when you start 13th, you’ve got nothing to lose.

“The only way you’re going to get to the front is to take a risk. It paid, you saw (Carlos) Munoz, (Sebastien) Bourdais, (Takuma) Sato, those guys were all on the same strategy. We couldn’t do that. At the time, we were running sixth, it just wasn’t going to pay off for us.”’

The first pit stop kind of set the tone for Rahal, but he and his team were able to battle back and wound up just one spot off what would have been his third podium finish this season.

“We had our backs up against the wall a little bit after that first yellow and that really hurt us a lot,” Rahal said. “It was hard to pass, got caught up a bit, and I don’t know why but I was really, really slow on the straights. We have to see what was going on there.”

But there’s no denying the good news of the good finish.

“I’m pretty pleased with the car today and the team continues to impress,” Rahal said. “It’s nice to get another top-five.

“Let’s focus on the fact we finished fourth and had a great day. It’s nice to be back in Ohio with the Buckeye stuff, it worked out for me and I think that moved us up in the points a lot.

“It’ll be a busy next couple weeks, a lot of testing, but we’re looking forward to Pocono.”

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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.