NHRA made right call to move Seattle final round to Brainerd, Indy

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If you attended Sunday’s final eliminations of the Protect The Harvest NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, it’s understandable if some of you feel you didn’t get your full money’s worth.

All the build-up through the first three rounds of eliminations ended prematurely when the skies opened and rain washed out the final round for the three biggest professional classes: Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock.

Instead of watching the winners celebrate in victory lane, fans got an empty stage decked out in puddles.

Instead of cheering on their favorite driver to victory, a lot of fans likely left the track feeling as if they were shorted of the full experience by not seeing what they came for: the crowning of the event winners.

Instead of going home exhilarated and exuberant, many of them likely went home feeling like a glass half-empty.

Am I right?

As I much as I hate to disappoint you, the NHRA got it right when it decided to postpone the final round.

Even if the track could have been dried – provided the rain stopped – the final round likely wouldn’t have been completed until late in the evening, at best, far beyond the track’s 8:30 p.m. PT curfew (after all, the track wants to be good neighbors with all the homes and businesses around it).

And the NHRA also got it right when it decided not to resume racing at Pacific Raceways on Monday – weather permitting, of course.

Instead, we’ll see the final round for Top Fuel and Funny Car play out in two weeks not in Seattle, but about 1,600 miles away in Brainerd, Minnesota, prior to the start of the Lucas Oil Nationals.

And in a classic case of sportsmanship, Vincent Nobile, one of the two finalists in Pro Stock, agreed to postpone the Seattle final round to prior to the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend in suburban Indianapolis.

The reason? Nobile’s opponent in the final round at Seattle, Aaron Strong, runs for a small team that didn’t have Brainerd on its original race dance card.

In fact, this weekend’s race was only the ninth of Strong’s brief Pro Stock career. He hails from the nearby town of Auburn, Washington.

But because Strong will be at Indianapolis, he and Nobile agreed to settle the postponed Seattle final round there – like true gentlemen and a perfect example of the camaraderie found in NHRA racing.

Sure, the NHRA and the six remaining pro finalist teams could have returned to the Seattle track Monday. But who would have been around to watch?

Where would the fans that were there Sunday be? Probably at work or school or traveling back to where they came from.

If NHRA was lucky, it might have had only a couple hundred people in attendance on Monday in Seattle – and I’d be willing to bet a good chunk of those attendees would have been with the NHRA teams that were actually competing.

Plus, Pacific Raceways would likely have had to open at least some of its concession stands to allow fans the opportunity to purchase some creature comforts such as food, souvenirs and the like.

All for what would likely take a total of 18 seconds for all three combined rounds – if that.

While rare, it’s not unusual for NHRA to move a final round – sometimes even semifinals and finals – to another location.

For example, the final round of the Sept. 2014 event at Charlotte was rained out, prompting NHRA to complete the event the following week at the Texas Motorplex, south of Dallas.

The sanctioning body does everything it can to complete events at the site they’re originally scheduled for. For example, this year’s New England Nationals were postponed from Sunday, June 5, to the following day due to rain.

But that was a different case than Seattle, as all four rounds of New Hampshire’s Sunday’s eliminations were rained out. Folks that returned to New England Dragway the following day got the full day’s worth of racing.

Sure, those of you who attended Sunday’s eliminations – even those of you that watched the first three rounds on FOX – may have felt a little cheated that rain kept you from watching the finale.

I get that. But think about how the teams felt, as well. They also would have liked to see the entire card of racing completed.

But it was not to be – and we move on.

There is a bright side that came out of all this, though: Those who attend the upcoming races at Brainerd and Indianapolis will get a bonus by seeing not one, but two races decided at the same place and on the same weekend.

That is, if the weather chooses to cooperate this time.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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.