NHRA: NAPA extends sponsorship of 2016 Funny Car champ Ron Capps

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Fans of NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps won’t have to look hard to recognize his car or firesuit in 2019 — they’ll look very similar to what he drove and wore in 2018.

Don Schumacher Racing announced Wednesday that NAPA Auto Parts has extended its contract to sponsor Capps’ Funny Car in a new multi-year agreement.

NAPA first appeared on the side of Capps’ car in 2007 as an associate sponsor, and became primary sponsor the following season. During the 11-year tenure between NAPA, DSR and Capps, the latter has won 36 races, 15 poles, and the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship.

“The longevity of our relationship speaks volumes, and we look forward to many more wins, championships and years representing NAPA Auto Parts,” team owner Don Schumacher said in a media release.

Added Capps, “It’s been an honor to represent the thousands of NAPA Auto Parts stores and NAPA AutoCare Center owners, employees and customers for the last decade, both on and off the race track. Our race fans are as passionate as they come and I’m elated about our future with NAPA Auto Parts and our continued goal to be number one.”

Capps, who has earned 60 wins in his Funny Car career – second-most in NHRA Funny Car annals behind John Force (16 championships, 149 wins) will be celebrating his 25th season as a professional NHRA competitor in 2019.

The upcoming season, which begins at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California, February 8-10, will also mark Capps’ 15th season with DSR.

Capps is coming off a strong 2018 season, winning three races and claiming one No. 1 qualifier position in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT HellCat en route to a fourth-place finish in the Funny Car ranks.

With NAPA now locked up for the next few years, DSR is still seeking a replacement sponsor for the U.S. Army, which did not extend its contract following the just completed 2018 NHRA season.

The Army was primary sponsor for nearly 20 years of eight-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher, as well as associate sponsor on the Top Fuel dragsters of Antron Brown and Leah Pritchett.

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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.