Kahne, Rodden gear up for better year in 2015

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The fourth member of the Hendrick Motorsports’ band – Kasey Kahne – seeks a better season in 2015.

Kahne won the fall Atlanta race a year ago to earn a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but he was eliminated after the Contender Round along with teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Still, Kahne has long-term job security  with a contract extension through 2018 confirmed late last year. Additionally, he’ll have a new crew chief in Keith Rodden, who returns to Hendrick a year after serving as crew chief for Jamie McMurray at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Rodden was Kahne’s long-time engineer before joining Ganassi.

Rodden replaces Kahne’s longtime crew chief Kenny Francis, who moves into a research and development role with Hendrick Motorsports.

“Having Keith Rodden back on the 5 team will be huge,” Kahne said during Thursday’s NASCAR media tour in Charlotte. “I worked with him for years. He engineered my car for the first time in 2004 I think.

“We have a great relationship; we’re friends. He did a nice job last year on the crew chief side, and has everything he’s learned from Kenny in the past. Getting back together with Keith will be good, because he brings a lot to the 5 team. It should be neat to get started.”

More pressing than the season ahead – at least in the interim – for Kahne is his beloved Seattle Seahawks going for their second straight Super Bowl championship (Sunday on NBC).

Kahne and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson worked together last year in a charity event that raised funds for the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County.

“We did a golf tournament in June 2014 and we’ll do it again this year right after Sonoma in Washington,” Kahne said.

“Russell’s a good guy, a super focused guy. I’m looking forward to Sunday’s game. If they played anywhere close to the last 6-7 minutes they did two weeks ago, they’ll be two-time Super Bowl champions.”

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.