Dale Jr. on ‘Dega knockout quals: “It just wasn’t much fun”

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Shortly before the start of today’s knockout qualifying at Talladega Superspeedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a colorful way of setting the stage for the proceedings on Twitter.

Things didn’t go ‘terribly wrong’ as Earnhardt was able to keep his car in one piece after riding in the draft in a bid to set a fast time.

But things didn’t go very well for him either, as he was unable to advance from the first round of qualifying for tomorrow’s Aaron’s 499.

Earnhardt, a five-time ‘Dega winner in Sprint Cup, will start 31st on the grid. After his qualifying run, he seemed to be suffering from a case of ennui.

“It just wasn’t much fun,” he told MRN Radio. “We’re out there in the draft running along. I don’t know, we just didn’t run a fast enough lap with Bowyer around.

“It wasn’t a whole lot of fun to be honest with you. I’d like to do some heat races [on restrictor plate tracks] or something. It’d be a little bit funner than this.”

When Fox TV caught up with him, he didn’t deviate much from his radio comments, adding that he found today’s exercise “pretty boring.” He later went back to Twitter and shook off his sub-par Saturday.

Earnhardt was one of several past Talladega winners that failed to get out of Round 1 in today’s qualifying, including the two victors from last year’s ‘Dega events, David Ragan (spring) and Jamie McMurray (fall); McMurray will roll off 33rd tomorrow and Ragan shall start 41st.

Others in this particular group included Michael Waltrip and Clint Bowyer, whose qualifying fortunes were only slightly better. They’ll start 28th and 29th respectively.

“It’s kind of luck of the draw on getting the right run and when you get the right run [it’s about] those guys continuing the entire lap, and we were just unable to do that,” McMurray told MRN of his experience.

“Fortunately, it’s at a place where qualifying is not as critical. We’ll just fight from where we are, and I think our McDonald’s Chevy is really good. It’s disappointing not to make it in, but I don’t think it will matter at Lap 5.”

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.