Ryan Newman — and his brass knuckles — are ready to fight for Sprint Cup crown in 2015

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Having come one position short of the championship last season, Ryan Newman is ready to fight his way to the Sprint Cup title in 2015.

His wife is even willing to help him in his quest.

“My wife got me some brass knuckles for Christmas, so I’m kind of looking forward to this year,” Newman quipped Thursday during the final day of the NASCAR media tour in Charlotte.

Newman was loose and carefree  during Thursday’s session. Known for his dry wit, Newman had a few other zingers in his half-hour discussion with the media.

One of the best involved Jeff Gordon.

“I told Jeff after Homestead that it was his fault I didn’t win the championship,” Newman said. “He looked at me kind of funny and I told him, ‘If you’d have taken Harvick out (at Phoenix) like I did Larson, you’d have been in the Chase for the championship and so would I.’

“And then I would have won the championship because we beat him at Homestead. I see everything that happened at Homestead being his fault.”

But then Newman turned serious and conciliatory. He may like to kid Gordon, but he’s also going to miss him when Gordon completes his final full-time season this year.

“I just look forward to the opportunity to race him again,” Newman said of Gordon.

Newman was one of three drivers to qualify for the 10-race Chase on points – Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle were the other. Newman advanced through the first three elimination rounds of the Chase based solely upon consistency.

By doing so, it showed the caliber, strength and determination of his team.

“Everybody stepped up, everybody from myself to (crew chief Luke Lambert), the team, the pit crew, the engine guys did an awesome job of stepping up,” Newman said. “There was a point back around May when we got looking in the wrong direction and were behind. They did an awesome job of continually stepping up and bringing better and more competitive pieces to the racetrack.

“In the end, to see the end result, it was an awesome thing to be part of.”

If he makes the Chase and goes through without winning again, Newman feels he has as good of a chance of finishing first this season as he did last year.

“Even though there was no W’s in the win column,” Newman said, “we achieved some amazing things for a first-year team, me with the organization, us as a team, us as a driver-crew chief combination. There’s no reason why we can’t keep that incline going.”

At first, Newman was a bit skeptical of the new Chase format when it was introduced last January. He had concerns about how it would unfold and be accepted by fans, let alone his fellow drivers.

“I saw potential for it, but I didn’t think it was going to explode the way it did,” Newman said. “I think we saw gunpowder laying on the floor, but we didn’t know who was going to light it, when it was going to light and how much of it was going to go off.

“I think every bit of it went off, and then some. Every part of the Chase was interesting from a dramatic standpoint from Matt Kenseth wanting to throw a punch to us racing our way in to other guys getting beat out as we raced our way in. Every aspect showed the growth and potential we have for our sport.”

 

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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.