Action Express adds Albuquerque, Nasr to full-time roles in 2018

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Three-time defending IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype champions Action Express Racing has evolved its lineups for the 2018 season, with two new full-time drivers.

In the wake of Dane Cameron’s departure to Team Penske’s new Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) program, the team adds Brazilian Felipe Nasr in his stead.

Nasr will race in North America full-time following at least a month of exploring his options. He was a guest of Helio Castroneves at the Watkins Glen International Verizon IndyCar Series race.

He’ll join Eric Curran in the team’s No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R, the team joined by Mike Conway in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Motul Petit Le Mans. The Sunoco Challenge winner traditionally joins the lineup as a fourth driver in Daytona; Nasr was that Sunoco Challenge to earn the opportunity to race in the 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona and did so with Michael Shank Racing, before Nasr returned to the event with Action Express Racing in 2013.

Meanwhile Christian Fittipaldi has been phased out of a full-time seat in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac, moved into the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races as third driver with Filipe Albuquerque moving into a full-time role next year. The rapid Portuguese driver was installed as the closing driver for Action Express’ win pursuit at Daytona but lost the win to Ricky Taylor in somewhat controversial fashion. As it is, Albuquerque’s enjoyed a busy year racing three of the four LMP2 spec chassis between IMSA, the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series, in the Dallara P217 (base chassis for the Cadillac DPi), the Oreca 07 and the Ligier JS P217.

New team performance coordinator Tim Keene is another key addition, having left his post at Michael Shank Racing as that team evolves from an Acura factory-backed effort to a privateer one next season. Keene has been in Prototype for quite a while, working with both DeltaWing Racing Cars and Chip Ganassi Racing.

“As a team, the 2017 IMSA season has been a solid one, but we are all working hard to make 2018 an even better year,” said Action Express Racing Team Manager Gary Nelson. “We are happy to have Eric (Curran) return in the Whelen Engineering Cadillac and to have Felipe (Nasr) come back to race with us for the full season.

“We have had the same driver line up for the Mustang Sampling Cadillac for the last two years, and that consistency will be an advantage. Christian (Fittipaldi), Filipe (Albuquerque) and Joao (Barbosa) have all been racing with us but we are just changing the roles that each will have next year. Adding Tim (Keene) to the 31 side is also something that we are excited about and we are looking forward to his contributions to our team effort here at Action Express Racing.”

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.