NASCAR not looking to expand four-car limit for teams

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NASCAR Chairman Brian France said Monday there are no plans to allow teams to have more than four full-time cars even in a time when one Sprint Cup race did not have a full 43-car field and 17 other races had only 43 cars attempt to qualify last year.

NASCAR instituted a four-car limit for the 2006 season, grandfathering teams that had more at that time until their sponsor contracts ended. NASCAR currently allows a fifth car but only to run seven races with a rookie driver. That rule will allow Hendrick Motorsports to run Chase Elliott in select Cup races this season.

France said during Monday’s opening portion of the NASCAR media tour that “we’re not looking to expand beyond the current four, but it’s true that we’d like to see the barrier of entry lower (for car owner) than higher.’’

France told reporters last July at Daytona that progress has “been slow” with creating more avenues for potential new owners.

Lowering that barrier to entry remains an item that France is concerned with accomplishing.

“Are we making things easier … for new teams to look at coming in and competing in NASCAR?’’ France said. “We want to have an open sport where you’ve got the ability to compete. We’re going to make it easy as reasonably possible.’’

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president & chief racing development officer, said the four-car rule has proved beneficial for the sport.

“It’s allowed some of the new owners to come in, the Furniture Rows of the world, the Michael Waltrip Racings of the world, Harry Scott,’’ O’Donnell said. “Everyone doesn’t come into the sport immediately and become a champion. It takes time. Some of those folks who come in and maybe finish from 30th to 43rd, it’s easy to point to them and say why should they be in the sport? Fast forward five years from now and that driver could be competing for a championship. We’re comfortable where it is today. We’ll always look at that, but we want to keep that option open to bring in new owners.’’

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.