Deflecting contract questions, Alex Palou adamant he still can win title: ‘I’m a warrior’

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Though conceding the situation was “not ideal,” defending NTT IndyCar series champion Alex Palou remained adamant his performance will be unaffected by his contract dispute with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Addressing the media in Toronto (ahead of Sunday’s race) for the first time since Ganassi and McLaren Racing both claimed his services for 2023, Palou mostly deflected questions about his future while wearing a brave face about the present.

“One hundred percent,” Palou told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns when asked if he and his No. 10 Dallara-Honda team can remain focused and win a second consecutive title over the final eight races this season. “Why not? Obviously, it’s not ideal. Especially for my crew and the people around me.

INDYCAR IN TORONTO: Details for watching Sunday’s race on Peacock

“But for myself, it’s all right. I’m a warrior, so this is not going to stop me. If people think this is going to affect me on track or something, they don’t know who I am. It’s all good. It’s all good with the crew as well. Everybody is supporting us, and we have the same target for the season to get the No. 10 NTT Data car in victory lane.”

Palou said he had talked to Chip Ganassi after disputing the team’s assertion that he was under contract for next season. Asked how the conversation went, Palou said, “We are professionals and understand and know how to talk. It went OK. I’m here, so.”

Palou said he was unsure if the team had considered replacing him at Toronto, and he expects to remain in the car through the end of 2022.

He refused to comment on his contract status or whether he had spoken with McLaren since Tuesday.

“I do not intend to comment on my intentions,” Palou said. “I don’t have anything else to add to what I said on Tuesday. Everything is good. We’re here in Toronto.”

Palou, who will make his Toronto debut (Canada will become the 18th country where he has raced), went on a track walk with his team Thursday night and said the situation wasn’t awkward with crew members.

“We all understand this is a big part of the sport and the business,” said Palou, who is winless since last September but has four podiums in nine races this season (including runner-up finishes in the season opener at St. Petersburg and July 3 at Mid-Ohio). “They are not involved with that, and I have full support with the team.

“We’re here to win. We have a championship to win. We’re fourth in the championship and had a really good season together. We’ll try our best to win in Toronto and try to win together.”

Teammate Scott Dixon told reporters before practice Friday “for sure, there’s some awkwardness” from the situation for Ganassi’s four-car organization but echoed Palou’s sentiment that it wouldn’t impact performance.

“If you’re going to have an example of how not to go about things, this is 100 percent how you would do it,” Dixon said. “So yeah, it doesn’t impact us as a team as far as the goals. We’re here to still win. No matter who that is or how we go about it. From a team example, I think it’s the job as normal. A little more noise I guess than typical weekends.”

The six-time series champion said he wasn’t privy to many details about the contract dispute.

“It sounds like it’s pretty complicated,” Dixon said. “To me, I think I was just really disappointed in how it was handled.

“For me, honesty is king, man. Loyalty as well. It’s very easy in this community to change quickly how you’re looked upon or respected. The personal view from myself and how I would have done this, it wouldn’t have been like this.”

Racing on the streets of Toronto for the first time since 2019, IndyCar practice for the Honda Indy Toronto will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET Friday on Peacock Premium. There will be another practice at 10 a.m. Saturday followed by qualifying on Peacock at 2 p.m.

Sunday’s race will begin at 3 p.m. ET (exclusively streamed on Peacock Premium).

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.