Second Chase comeback not to be for Jeff Gordon

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One year ago at Richmond International Raceway, Jeff Gordon put on a stellar late run to race his way into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But tonight at RIR, despite another superb effort, the four-time Cup champion lost out on a post-season berth by the narrowest of margins.

Gordon was able to make his way back into contention for a Chase spot after falling two laps down earlier in the race thanks to a vibration that was later confirmed to be a loose right-front wheel.

But the last restart of the night with three laps remaining – triggered by a caution-inducing spin from Clint Bowyer with seven laps to go – changed everything.

After the green came back, Gordon was unable to move forward and wound up finishing eighth, while Joey Logano, who had taken a wave-around under the yellow to pull within one lap of the leaders, gained three positions to 22nd.

When it was all over, Gordon had lost out to Logano for the 10th spot in the Cup championship – the final automatic bid in the Chase – by a single point.

“It wasn’t pretty, but we were getting it done until that caution came out, and you know, we still could have made it in,” said Gordon. “The [last] restart just didn’t go the way we needed it to, so that’s unfortunate.

“It’s tough. I’m just bummed for this team.  They worked so hard, and I don’t know why we’ve had the kind of rough year that we’ve had. We’re going to do everything we can to go these next 10 races and step it up and get ourselves in position to be more competitive.”

It marks just the second time since the inception of the Chase that Gordon will not be able to compete for a championship.

He led the first 49 laps of the race on Saturday, but faded afterwards. He was running 15th at the time he had to pit for the vibration. At that point, it looked as if his hopes were done, then and there.

But Gordon was able to get one of his laps back on the track, and then earned the free pass when the caution came out at Lap 268 for a spin involving David Stremme.

He went down a lap once more when Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson hit the wall with 57 laps remaining, but again got the free pass. And with Logano unable to gain positions at the time, Gordon eventually broke into the Top 10 of the standings after moving to ninth place with less than 35 laps remaining.

But the Bowyer yellow proved disastrous for him. Now, Gordon and his No. 24 team will only be racing for pride and 11th place for the remainder of the season.

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.