NASCAR AMERICA: Almirola, No. 43 Petty team focused on winning, making Chase again (VIDEO)

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Aric Almirola and his No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team made their breakthrough last July at Daytona.

Their Coke Zero 400 victory propelled them into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. And as 2015 looms, they have bigger goals now.

During his co-host role in today’s episode of NASCAR AMERICA, Almirola talked about those aspirations and also discussed how competing in the Chase caused them all to recognize that they had to raise their game.

“Everybody really understands now at RPM what level of excellence is expected out of them throughout the season, especially when you get to those last 10 races,” he said today.

“It’s amazing how much the level of competition actually increases when you get to Chicago to start the Chase. Now we have a better understanding of how tough we’ve got it [then], and how hard we’ve gotta work.”

Almirola’s win was the first for the famous Petty No. 43 car since John Andretti took the checkered flag at Martinsville in 1999. Almirola wants to ensure that it won’t take as long for the next one to occur.

“I don’t want somebody else 15 years from now talking about trying to get the 43 car back to Victory Lane,” he said.

For more on how Almirola and RPM have been preparing for the new season, check out the clip at the top.

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.