Schmidt Peterson, Honda announce contract extension

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Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Honda weren’t expected to part ways – SPM has been the team undertaking development work with a Honda-powered 2018 Dallara universal aero kit in INDYCAR-managed testing – and so today have announced a formal extension of their relationship through 2020.

Beyond the extension, SPM and Honda announced what was also termed “an increased level of partnership between the two parties.”

Further elaboration on that front comes from Art St. Cyr, Honda Performance Development President.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in their capability, and our expectations are a lot higher,” St. Cyr said. “Their engineering talent, their ability to analyze what’s going on from one race to the next and really be able to up their game each session really impressed us. We are going to be relying on Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to help us gather base data that is going to be the source of our programs like HPD Dynamic, our simulator, and those types of activities that we will be feeding across to all of our Honda teams to make sure that all of them raise their game.

“As we move forward with our manufacturer testing, SPM is going to be one of our key teams to really help us characterize the kits and make sure we can understand what are the strengths, what are the weaknesses and how we can maximize the ability of that kit to get the speed on track.”

SPM general manager Piers Phillips added, “Our technical partners give us the increased engineering capability which, in turn, gives HPD the confidence in us as a team to take our partnership to the next level. Our contract extension is the culmination of everyone’s hard work. One of the things that we’re extremely excited about is working closer technically with HPD for the benefit of not only our program, but for all Honda programs in the IndyCar Series. We’re really excited for the next three years and hoping to win a lot of races, some Indy 500s and championships.”

The new 2018 car has one final test under INDYCAR direction at Sebring International Raceway on Sept. 26.

SPM has not announced its 2018 driver lineup, although it’s believed James Hinchcliffe is working towards an extension to continue with the team for what would be his fourth consecutive year.

The identity of Hinchcliffe’s teammate, provided Hinchcliffe re-signs, remains a hot topic.

Several veterans and young guns are known to be vying for the full-time seat, vacated by Mikhail Aleshin after the race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Sebastian Saavedra and Jack Harvey have been in the No. 7 Honda since Mid-Ohio and the team may wind up running a third car at the Sonoma season finale, as they last did for Aleshin in 2015.

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.