NASCAR: Joe Gibbs Racing prepares for new era as 4-car team (VIDEO)

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Jimmy Makar has been with Joe Gibbs Racing in various roles since its very beginnings back in 1991. He won a Sprint Cup title in 2000 as crew chief for Bobby Labonte and saw Tony Stewart add two more titles to the team’s trophy case (2002, 2005) before becoming JGR’s senior vice president of racing operations.

He’s watched as the team has evolved from a single-car entity at the start to its new four-car squad, which will hit the track for the first time this upcoming Cup season.

But he says that JGR’s most recent expansion to include the incoming Carl Edwards has been the toughest to pull off.

“It’s been quite an ordeal,” Makar said during JGR’s press conference Monday for the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina. “It seems like to me, after going to a second team and then a third team, this fourth team is exponentially harder. Because you’ve got so many more people involved than the first team.

“We went from 17 people to 50-something people the first time around, so it wasn’t so bad. Now, we’re in the 400-500 people range, and that’s a lot more people to deal with. We had a new employee meeting and we looked around the room. The auditorium we had, there were about 100 seats…and there were people sitting on the steps.

“We filled that up plus, so it just goes to show you how much it’s grown and how much of an undertaking it is to do a fourth team.”

Adding to a busy offseason for JGR has been a major shuffle of its crew chiefs.

Darian Grubb, former crew chief for Denny Hamlin, is now with Edwards on the new No. 19 team. Kyle Busch’s former crew chief, Dave Rogers, is now running with Hamlin and the No. 11 camp. And moving up to replace Rogers on Busch’s No. 18 side is Adam Stevens, who had been Busch’s crew chief in the XFINITY Series.

Only one driver-crew chief pairing remained intact through it all – Matt Kenseth and Jason Ratcliff on the No. 20 team. However, Hamlin believes everything from the expansion to the crew chief shake-up will be worth it.

“All of those changes, the personnel changes and crew chief changes we’ve done with the organization, it’s the best move for everyone here,” he said. “A lot of the concerns that you have as a driver when you bring on an extra team is if [you’re] spreading yourself too thin. And I think JGR has done a great job of hiring really good staff over this off-season to accommodate that fourth car. For me, it makes me excited about the prospects of what JGR’s got in store for this year.”

Busch is also confident that JGR can be successful as a four-car team. He said that in addition to Edwards providing even more veteran leadership and “another bank to pull from” in finding performance on the track, JGR will benefit from the extra infrastructure as well.

“The money that’s left in order to add on the extra engineers, and the body guys, the chassis guys, and all that stuff just to build more cars and to keep up with all the demands NASCAR makes and requires for four teams – I think that’s a huge added bonus as well,” he explained.

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.