Jimmie Johnson is going for seven titles, but isn’t the story at Media Tour

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At the 2014 NASCAR media tour in Charlotte, Jimmie Johnson was fresh off his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship and inadvertently at the center of a controversy when former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb said Johnson “wasn’t an athlete.”

Johnson has the same goal for 2015 as a year ago – win multiple races and capture his record-tying seventh Cup championship.

But unlike last year, he isn’t the overall story heading into the season. He wasn’t even the biggest story on his own team Thursday — something crew chief Chad Knaus had fun with during a 2015 Media Tour.

Johnson discussed entering another year of stability with Knaus, primary sponsor Lowe’s, and a No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet crew that remains intact.

“I haven’t even thought about it,” Johnson said of the championship. “The championship seems so far away. We had a shot last year, and it came and went. It hasn’t been on my mind.

“The way we finished up the ’14 season isn’t something we’re happy with. We need to be better.

“This week is about Jeff Gordon and the introduction of Chase (Elliott) to the 24. But it’s weird to see someone you’ve idolized be retiring … ”

It was at that moment Gordon, among those most responsible for Johnson’s Cup success having discovered him more than a dozen years ago, morphed from teammate/driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet into Hendrick Motorsports media day court jester.

“I didn’t take that the way everyone else did!” he deadpanned, to much laughter.

“Yeah it’s a weird experience,” Johnson said. “We are seeing him start the process of the last year.”

Johnson poked fun at himeslf, too, noting a rare mistake he made in a recent triathlon.

“I added a couple miles… I missed a turn,” he said.

“You think you’d approach an intersection with eight cops there, and at least one would say you went the wrong way. I went straight on through. Then nobody was there. So I turned around.

“To everyone’s surprise, I did miss a left hand turn.”

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.