Kurt Busch earns Sprint Cup pole at Darlington

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One day after experiencing an IZOD IndyCar Series machine for the first time at Indianapolis, Kurt Busch stepped back into his familiar stock car environment and nabbed the pole for tomorrow night’s Sprint Cup Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Busch took the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet to the top of the charts in qualifying with a track-record lap of 181.918 miles per hour around “The Lady in Black.” It was enough to push defending Southern 500 champion Jimmie Johnson (180.974 mph) to the outside of the front row.

“I was real fast in [Turns] 1 and 2,” said Busch, who earned his 16th career Cup pole and first since 2011 (Michigan). “Maybe I left a little bit on the table getting into [Turn] 3, but it didn’t feel that fast. And when it doesn’t, that means the car was stuck really well. So that’s just a tribute to these Furniture Row guys. The confidence they had coming here this weekend stems from the years ago when they won here with Regan Smith [in 2011].”

“All the changes we made in practice, all of them made sense. Sometimes we took a step back; sometimes we took a step forward. But we had a distinct definition on each of the changes. So the car has been feeling pretty good.”

Kyle Busch, who is on pole for tonight’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Darlington, qualified third in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (180.920 mph) and will be joined on the second row by Kasey Kahne (180.741 mph). Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin are in Row 3, followed by a fourth row of Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon (who is making his 700th career Cup start this weekend), and Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick rounding out the Top 10 starting spots.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will go off from 16th on Saturday night, Cup champ Brad Keselowski from 26th, Talladega winner David Ragan from 31st, and Danica Patrick from 40th in a backup car after crashing her primary Chevy in practice.

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.