NASCAR: Clint Bowyer tops Sonoma final practice

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2012 Sonoma winner Clint Bowyer is looking strong heading into tomorrow’s qualifying session on the Northern California circuit.

After running P2 in today’s first practice session to Kurt Busch, Bowyer improved to the top spot in final practice with a time of 74.634 seconds around the 1.99-mile road course.

Sonoma has been one of Bowyer’s strongholds in recent years. In addition to his aforementioned triumph two years ago, Bowyer has collected five Top-5s and six Top-10s there for an average finish of 9.1 – second only to Jeff Gordon (8.2).

Following Bowyer in final practice was Paul Menard, who is coming off a fourth-place result at Michigan. Menard made a move late to go up to P2 with a lap of 74.981 seconds.

After settling among the Top 10 speeds in the first practice, Carl Edwards rose to third in the second session after posting a lap of 75.043 seconds.

Jamie McMurray was fourth-fastest for Chip Ganassi Racing (75.045 secs), while Dale Earnhardt Jr. – a driver that has never claimed a Top-10 finish in his Cup career at Sonoma – was listed fifth on the sheets (75.045 secs).

Positions 6-10 were filled by rookie Kyle Larson, defending Sonoma winner Martin Truex Jr., Brian Vickers, Jeff Gordon, and Greg Biffle. Last week’s Michigan winner, Jimmie Johnson, was 23rd.

Qualifying will take place tomorrow afternoon at 1:40 p.m. ET, followed by Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at 1 p.m. ET.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT SONOMA – FINAL 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.