NASCAR: Wood Bros. plan expanded 18-race Cup schedule for Ryan Blaney (VIDEO)

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The 65th anniversary season of Wood Brothers Racing will apparently go a bit longer.

This afternoon during the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, team co-owner Eddie Wood confirmed that its planned 2015 Sprint Cup schedule has been pushed to 18 races thanks to the tentative addition of six more events.

“Our normal commitment is with Ford Motor Company and their Motorcraft and Quick Lane brands, and we’re gonna run our 12 races like we’ve been doing for the last few years,” Eddie Wood said. “We’ll run the speedways and the faster mile-and-a-half [tracks].

“But we’re excited to say that we’ve been working really hard through our [technical] alliance with Team Penske, and we’ve tentatively added six races to our schedule. You want to race every week, and it kills you when you’re not there. We’re really thankful that we’re able to do that.”

Eddie’s brother and fellow team co-owner, Len Wood, told reporters that the six new events are Kentucky, the first race at New Hampshire, the Bristol night race, the Southern 500 at Darlington, and the Chase races at Chicagoland and Charlotte.

The decision means more seat time for the team’s new driver, Ryan Blaney, who will also compete for both Penske in the XFINITY Series and in a limited role with Brad Keselowski Racing in the Camping World Truck Series.

Blaney made his first two career Sprint Cup starts in 2014 for Penske, finishing 27th in his spring debut at Kansas and then 22nd in the Chase race at Talladega.

With his Wood Brothers debut at the Daytona 500 drawing closer, Blaney says he has been immersing himself in the team’s rich history by visiting its museum in Stuart, Virginia.

Through those visits, he has discovered just how important the team has been to the sport and also how much common ground he and the team have.

“This family legacy is pretty unique to me,” Blaney said today. “I come from a long family of racing, and that’s the same with the Wood Brothers. It’s kind of neat. It’s really special and something we can share. I think that’s gonna create a really good bond.

“Because that’s all we want to do – myself, the Wood Brothers, and [crew chief] Jeremy Bullins – all we want to do is win and do well. That’s all we care about: Racing.”

Blaney was also excited about the Wood Brothers’ new alliance with Team Penske, saying that it would help them make “the next step to where we need to be.”

As for his crew chief, Bullins, this opportunity is a homecoming for him. He worked on the Wood Brothers’ Pro Cup and Late Model cars in 1999 before moving up to race engineer on their famous No. 21 Sprint Cup team, a role he held from 2000 to mid-2002.

He rejoins after a successful three-year run as crew chief for Penske’s No. 22 NXS program, where he helped them win 21 races and two NXS owner championships. Blaney himself contributed two of those victories.

“It’s special in a lot of ways,” Bullins said. “One, to be able to continue our relationship with Team Penske and having good teammates to work with in the 2 [Keselowski] and 22 [Joey Logano]. But the Wood Brothers is where I started. This is where I got my first opportunity. To come back here as the crew chief and be able to lead the team is a great opportunity.

“Ryan and I have worked together since 2012. There’s a relationship there and we feel like we can build on that history and get ourselves in a position to be successful.”

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.