Kyle Larson tops first Sprint Cup practice at Richmond

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Driving the car that probably should have won last spring’s race at Richmond International Raceway, rookie phenom Kyle Larson took the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to P1 in today’s first practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at RIR.

Larson’s 21.280-second lap (126.880 mph) around the 3/4-mile bullring was set early on in the two-hour session, and it was able to stand up for the remainder.

Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski came the closest to the 21-year-old with a time of 21.396 seconds (126.192 mph) in his No. 2 “Carolina Blue” Deuce.

The No. 42 camp should feel confident about their chances this weekend in the RVA. Last spring, Juan Pablo Montoya gave it a stellar drive and was on the verge of winning before a caution with five laps to go ultimately stopped him from claiming his first Sprint Cup win on an oval.

But while Montoya has since returned to IndyCar racing, Larson has proven to be a stellar freshman in Sprint Cup. He’s overcome a slow start to string together four Top-10 finishes in his last five outings, and could be a dark horse in Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400.

Larson finished eighth and 14th in two Richmond starts last year in the Nationwide Series.

Fresh off his recent wedding in the Bahamas, Clint Bowyer was third-fastest in the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota with a lap of 21.444 seconds (125.909 mph). Kasey Kahne was fourth on the charts (21.466/125.780), and the most recent Sprint Cup winner, Kevin Harvick, rounded out the Top 5 (21.527/125.424).

A second, one-hour practice will go off today at 1 p.m. ET, followed by qualifying for Saturday’s main event shortly after 5 p.m. ET.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP AT RICHMOND – FIRST PRACTICE TIMES

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.