Jimmie Johnson: Kevin Harvick winning Sprint Cup title was “the right thing”

21 Comments

Jimmie Johnson’s bid for a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup championship was cut short in the Contender Round of this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. Although he would win later in the Chase at Texas, he was left to essentially watch as Kevin Harvick emerged as the new champ.

During a Thursday function in Charlotte, North Carolina for his foundation, Johnson indicated that the final outcome was fine with him.

“I feel like Kevin winning was the right thing when you look at the winners and the dominant cars throughout the year,” Johnson said to reporters of Harvick, who won five times in 2014 and completed his run to the title with back-to-back victories at Phoenix and Homestead.

However, it could have all been different had Ryan Newman managed to defeat Harvick at Homestead in the final laps. Leading up to the championship finale, many observers pondered the prospect of Newman perhaps securing the Cup without a single race victory.

As the finale played out, it became clear that Newman would indeed have to beat Harvick to win the race and the title, and thus could not become the “winless champion.” But Johnson feels that had Newman won, it still wouldn’t have sat completely right.

“Ryan had every right in the world to be the champion – the rules were laid out that way – but if the 31 [Newman’s team] wins the championship, I think that would have been tough to swallow for the sport,” Johnson said.

“That’s not taking anything away from [team owner Richard] Childress or Ryan – they had an awesome year and collected a ton of points. [But] there’s some danger for the sport with this format.”

Before Homestead, NASCAR Chairman Brian France said that while the sanctioning body reserved the right to make tweaks, he put the possibility of tinkering with the Chase for 2015 at “very modest to zero.”

However, that did not stop Jeff Gordon from calling for a separate points system for all drivers involved in the post-season stretch. Additionally, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett, a former Cup champion himself, proposed that should a Championship 4 driver be winless, he/she would have to win at Homestead to earn the title.

On Thursday, Johnson said perhaps a more radical change for the sport in general was needed – a format change for race weekends.

“Maybe we qualify on Saturday and that’s televised, and then we run some heat races and a feature on Sunday,” he said. “That fits in a four-hour time window. It sticks to our roots, sticks to what we’ve always had and done, gives some natural pauses for the show for the social element at the track.

“I think there’d be some good momentum with that personally. We’d still get 500 miles between practice, qualifying and all of that. I think that would be a pretty entertaining format.”

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

3 Comments

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.