Sarah Cornett-Ching moves up from ARCA to K&N Pro Series East in 2016

(Photo courtesy Sarah Cornett-Ching Racing)
6 Comments

A year ago, Sarah Cornett-Ching was working as a master welder in the remote hinterlands of northern Canada.

Today, Cornett-Ching is one of the most promising young drivers in stock car racing, with a bright future ahead of her.

That’s why it’s no surprise that after a strong rookie season in the ARCA Series in 2015 – including finishing seventh in the standings (an ARCA record for highest finish ever for a female driver), Cornett-Ching is moving on up to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2016.

She made the announcement recently on her web site.

Cornett-Ching will run for K&N East Rookie of the Year honors in 2016. She’ll also continue driving for team owner Tony Blanchard and RACE 101 as they join her in the climb from ARCA to the K&N series.

Cornett-Ching will also compete in select races in ARCA, as well as the CARS Super Late Model Tour.

“I’m really energized about running in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series,” Cornett-Ching said in a release. “We raced a handful of events with them last year, I really liked how the races were organized, the parity of the rules package and what it offered me as a driver.”

The 24-year-old Summerland, British Columbia resident has shown great promise in her climb up the racing ladder. The K&N Series is the next step in her evolution as a racer.

“As my career continues to advance, I’ll be racing on some of the same tracks and with a lot of the same drivers and teams,” Cornett-Ching said. “Combine that with the added value that the NASCAR brand can bring to me and my partners (and) it was really a no-brainer (to move up to the K&N league).”

Cornett-Ching will kick off her 2016 racing season in the ARCA season opener at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 13. The following day, she’ll compete in the K&N Pro Series East season opener at nearby New Smyrna Speedway.

“The K&N Series has a great mix of tracks and is a really good place to build my skill-set and improve my confidence as a driver, but ARCA still offers valuable opportunities for big-track and radial tire experience,” Cornett-Ching said. “Seat time is seat time, no matter what I’m driving.

“So to have laps around places like Chicago, Talladega or Kansas is extremely valuable, especially when I have an opportunity to move up to Xfinity or the Truck Series in the future.”

Cornett-Ching had five top-10 finishes in 20 ARCA starts in 2015. Now that she moves up to the K&N series, she looks forward to following in the footsteps of others who preceded her.

“So many drivers came through those cars on the way to K&N success, and ultimately the top three tiers of NASCAR – Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and so many more,” she said. “There’s a pattern there.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
0 Comments

Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”