Kanaan makes strong move in IndyCar title race

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Tony Kanaan admittedly wasn’t going to catch his longtime pal Helio Castroneves in the closing stages of last night’s IZOD IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, but he was still able to climb ten spots up the grid to a third-place finish in the Firestone 550.

Coupled with an emotional victory in last month’s Indianapolis 500, Kanaan’s started off well on the ovals this year, and his third-place result in Fort Worth also pushed him an impressive four spots up the IndyCar standings table. He’s now fourth in the championship (-64 points off of Castroneves), although he still has to cut away at a sizable 37 point gap between himself and third-place pilot Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Kanaan and his KV Racing Technology team were hoping for a potential late-race yellow to aid him in his charge toward the front, but the race stayed green for the final 106 laps. He relinquished second place on the track in order to make his final stop of the night under green with 30 laps remaining, but he used the fresh rubber wisely and got past Ed Carpenter for the final spot on the podium in the last stint of the race.

“On our strategy, we were actually counting on a yellow toward the end of the race which would have put us in a very, very good position for the win, but I’ll take third place here any day,” said Kanaan.

“The yellows didn’t really fall for us on TK’s car,” said team co-owner Jimmy Vasser. “If there were ten more laps, I think we would have been there, or if we’d have had a yellow when he got around Helio, I think that because we were so much stronger, they would have been sitting ducks and we would have had a shot at it.”

Still, Kanaan appears set to make more inroads in the championship during the next two races on the ovals at Milwaukee (Sat., 4 pm ET, NBC Sports Network) and Iowa (Sun., June 23, check local listings), where he came away with podium finishes last season.

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.