Brad Keselowski fastest, title contender Kevin Harvick 2nd in opening Cup practice at Homestead

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NASCAR’s Championship 4 are front and center this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but Brad Keselowski still wants to end his season with a bang.

Keselowski, who was eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup in last week’s Eliminator Round finale at Phoenix, knocked off title contender Kevin Harvick late with a lap of 179.004 mph to earn top honors in today’s first practice session for the Cup Series.

Harvick had shot to P1 with about 10 minutes remaining in the session with his lap of 178.950 mph, only to have Keselowski eclipse him with his flyer a couple of minutes later.

Altogether, Stewart-Haas Racing appears to have some fast bullets ready for qualifying later this afternoon. In addition to Harvick’s P2 lap, SHR teammates Danica Patrick (third, 178.767) and Kurt Busch (sixth, 177.772) also put up stout speeds.

Matt Kenseth and rookie Kyle Larson were fourth and fifth, respectively. Following Kurt Busch in sixth was Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, another member of the Championship 4 in Ryan Newman (177.620), and Kyle Busch to complete the Top 10.

As for the rest of the Championship 4, Denny Hamlin ended up 11th (177.497) and Joey Logano was the slowest of the quartet in 22nd (175.838). Hamlin, however, was brimming with optimism after the session.

“It’s got great long-run speed, which is going to be important,” he told Fox Sports of his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. “When I say long-run, I mean after three or four laps. It feels like a car I can go out and compete for a win with.

“It’s still early in the weekend, but overall, I’m really encouraged with what I’ve seen so far.”

Paul Menard was 25th-fastest, but posted the quickest 10-consecutive-lap average at 169.771 mph (Laps 7-16, 28 total laps run).

Qualifying will take place later tonight at 6:15 p.m. ET.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Homestead – 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.