Danica Patrick is the kids’ choice

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Sprint Cup rookie Danica Patrick added Nickelodeon’s famous orange blimp to her trophy mantle tonight, earning the 2013 Kids’ Choice Award for favorite female athlete.

“What?!!!!! Thank you tweeps for voting for me for this #kidschoiceaward!,” Patrick tweeted afterwards, perhaps in a bit of shock as her message may attest.

The Stewart-Haas Racing pilot and former IndyCar race winner won the vote over tennis queens Serena and Venus Williams, as well as Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas. The KCA is being held this evening at USC’s Galen Center in Los Angeles, which allowed Patrick the chance to accept the award in person after finishing up her day at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

Patrick was 36th-quickest in today’s Sprint Cup final practice session and will start 40th for tomorrow’s 400-miler at ACS. Her results have fallen off decisively since finishing eighth in the Daytona 500 (average finish post-Daytona: 33rd), but Patrick isn’t worrying too much just yet.

“I know that I have a lot to learn and I know that as a group, we have a lot to learn together to figure out where the car is best for me so we can be closer more of the weekend,” Patrick said to the media on Friday at ACS. “But we will get it. I’m not discouraged or afraid at this point for anything.

“This is just the process that we go through. We will be fine.”

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.