Age hasn’t slowed these three down in IndyCar

INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibiniski
INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
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PORTLAND, Oregon – It was “Turn Back the Clock Night” last Saturday at World Wide Technology Speedway at Gateway and the podium celebration should have been sponsored by Geritol, or at the very least, “Just for Men” hair coloring.

The winner, Takuma Sato, is 42 years. Second place was a relative youngster, 38-year-old Ed Carpenter who looks closer to 48. And rounding out the podium is the oldest active full-time driver in the NTT IndyCar Series, 44-year-old Tony Kanaan.

As the series heads to Portland for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland, the NTT IndyCar Series has been a showcase of youthful aggression most of the season with 27-year-old Alexander Rossi battling 28-year-old Josef Newgarden for the championship. Added to the “Fountain of Youth” is the youngest race winner in IndyCar Series history, 19-year-old Colton Herta who won at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) when he was still 18, and 21-year-old Santino Ferrucci.

The battle for the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship heats up this weekend with the penultimate race of the season at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway in Portland, Ore., as NBC Sports presents coverage of the Grand Prix of Portland this Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Pre-race coverage on NBC begins at 3 p.m. ET.

Last weekend, however, proved there is race-winning experience in the older group of NTT IndyCar Series drivers.

These drivers, however, prefer to be called “experienced” rather than “old.”

“I think we were up getting ready for the podium, Tony (Kanaan) made a really mean comment and said, ‘We’re all 40 years old up there,’” Carpenter recalled. “Hey, I’m 38. Like I’m a legit 38. I don’t really know how old TK is. I don’t know how old Takuma is. Everybody lies about their age. I am a legit, honest to God, 38 years old. Born in March 1981.

“Working with Spencer (Pigot) and Ed (Jones), these children that were starting racing when I was already in Indy cars, it keeps me young, even though I’m going gray, losing my hair and everything else. It keeps me young. I love racing with these guys. Josef and I are still very close and good friends from our time together.

“It’s just fun to be in the mix with them again.”

Carpenter is an owner/driver in the series, specializing on oval racing. Because last week’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 was the last oval race of the season, his time behind the wheel is over for 2019. He oversees his two-driver lineup of Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones at Portland International Raceway and WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca for the remainder of the 2019 season.

Kanaan, however, returns to the cockpit of the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing hoping to turnaround a very dismal season.

His third-place finish was Kanaan’s first podium since Texas Motor Speedway on June 10, 2017.

“That’s a long time,” Kanaan admitted. “I told the boys on the cool-down lap; I probably don’t remember where I had to stop my car (for the podium).

“We’ve been overcoming a lot of adversities throughout the year. We’ve been hearing a lot of things, good things and bad things, some support, some people thinking we shouldn’t be doing this.

“This is a great night for us. It paid off. When I joined A.J. Foyt Racing, it was to make this team better. We’ve been struggling quite a bit. This is a great night for us.

“The boys did a great job. Now it proves it’s making us stronger, definitely. A result like this, it’s a huge boost for everybody. I’m so happy.”

Kanaan is now 15thin the NTT IndyCar Series standings but proved last week he still has the aggressiveness that once made him one of the most feared drivers in the paddock earlier in his career.

“Slowly we are turning it around,” Kanaan said. “We brought Don Halliday back (as engineer), which is a guy my first year here in America in 1996. He was engineering myself at Tasman. He came in to do some damage control. It’s been great.

“Yes, it was a good result. Obviously let’s not get ahead of the game. We still have two races to go, still have a lot of work to do. I’ll take it, enjoy it tonight and go back to work tomorrow.”

By driving to victory last Saturday night, it was Sato’s second win of the season, the first time in his career that the driver from Japan has won more than one time in a season. He is also the defending winner at Portland International Raceway and could conceivably keep his streak going into Sunday’s race.

Sato isn’t just getting older; he’s getting faster.

“If you take the three of us added I think is 150 years old for sure,” Sato said of the aging podium. “I think that’s the beauty of this sport, with motor racing. If you’re talking only in physical terms, might not be able to do that. With the combination of experience and the team behind it, the race craft, all the things, I think age is sometimes something, but it is not everything.

“I think we can still perform like this. Today was a great day for three of us. Three of us is very happy.”

Happiness with a result, however, doesn’t last long in the NTT IndyCar Series. Friday morning, these three drivers will be back on track, practicing for Saturday’s qualifications and Sunday’s race.

But for a rare moment last Saturday night, three of the oldest drivers in the series told the younger drivers to, “Step aside, we’re coming through.”

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.