Andretti: Focus on drivers, not CEO, key for IndyCar

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One of the major stories this offseason in IndyCar was the removal of Randy Bernard as series CEO, with Indianapolis Motor Speedway head Jeff Belskus named interim CEO and IMS’ parent company Hulman and Co. announcing its new CEO Mark Miles.

With the leadership change now in the past, the defending champion team owner Michael Andretti would like to see the focus shift away from the politics back to the racing this year.

“Honestly I think it’s going to be so nice to have the promotion about the teams, drivers and races and not about the CEO,” Andretti told me at a press event promoting the Milwaukee IndyFest earlier this year. “When was the last time you saw anything where the CEO got more attention than any of the participants? I think that was so wrong for the series to have that; now it will be good. The new people in don’t want their name in the press, which is the way it should be. They are in the background, and we want to make the (drivers) the heroes.”

Andretti’s active investment in IndyCar is hard to match. As team principal of Andretti Autosport, he runs a four-car operation in IndyCar and is the only team owner to have a car entered in each of the three Mazda Road to Indy divisions, Firestone Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000.

Additionally, his Andretti Sports Marketing group promotes races at Milwaukee and Baltimore. Each will be in their second year under the ASM banner this year.

“It’s easy how it all gets done, it’s because of good people,” he said. “You hire good people, and let them do their job. I don’t have my hands in everything – I have fingers in – but you trust the ones you hire do their jobs. I truly believe, if you’ll give someone a job, you’re doing it for a reason. If they don’t, they answer to it. Otherwise what’s the deal?”

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.