Pippa Mann wins this time in the wait to make the Indianapolis 500

Chris Owens/IndyCar
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INDIANAPOLIS – Pippa Mann faced an excruciating dilemma Saturday in Indianapolis 500 qualifying.

Her car was fast enough to make the field, but the line of cars that might prove critical to staying in the race wasn’t moving fast enough.

“I literally had to sit there sweating it out, and all that was going through my head was, ‘Not again, please not again, please, please not again,’” said Mann, who narrowly missed last year’s race.

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The native of Ipswich, England, was able to avoid a repeat, making the field as the 30th and final driver guaranteed a spot on the first day of qualifying.

Mann, one of nine women to race in the Indy 500, initially had qualified in 19th at 12:27 p.m., and it seemed for most of the next three hours that she was a cinch to make her seventh start at the Brickyard’s Memorial Day weekend classic.

But her No. 39 Dallara-Chevrolet began falling steadily on the qualifying results chart as the track kept getting quicker later in the afternoon. Mann flashed back to her failure to qualify for the 2018 Indy 500 in virtually the same way.

“We felt we were going to slot in somewhere between 23rd and 26th-ish today, which happened, and then we kind of miscalculated how much better the track conditions were going to get at the end of the day,” she said. “And by the time we realized how much better they were and how much quicker we’d have been able to run, there were too many cars in the line to pull our time to go.”

Ultimately, she and her Clauson-Marshall Racing team had made the right call, and that prompted tears in an emotional interview on NBCSN.

“We made it,” said Mann, who finished a career-best 17th in her most recent Indy 500 start in 2017. “We’re locked in! We made it. Thank you.”

Mann, 35, is driving for an entry founded in honor of Bryan Clauson, the late USAC, IndyCar and NASCAR driver who was killed in a 2016 sprint car crash. Clauson’s father, Tim, is a co-owner with Richard Marshall.

Clauson-Marshall Racing regularly competes in USAC sprint car events; this will mark its Indy 500 debut. The seed actually was planted when Mann missed the race last year, and Tim Clauson approached her in a suite at IMS as she watched the event.

“I should have been in the car and wasn’t, and he told me this was something he wanted to do, and it’s taken us a year of work to get this far,” said Mann, who plans to return to work as a performance driving coach after Indy. “So right now this is just one race for now, but I’m really very honored that Tim chose me to come drive his car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time following in Bryan’s footsteps.

“It means a huge amount to me. I’m an odd choice to a lot of people because I’m not a dirt racer, I’m a road racer who’s joined a dirt racing team. But the Clauson family and the Marshall family have kind of become like family to me over the past couple years. This has been an incredibly cool experience and I am so glad this ended this way today.”

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.