Iowa Speedway hunting for future Sprint Cup date

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The 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway, site of tonight’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race, has earned a solid reputation as one of America’s top short tracks. But while the bullring hosts NNS, Camping World Truck Series, and IZOD IndyCar Series races, it has yet to gain the one thing every major-league track wants: A prized date on the Sprint Cup schedule.

And it would appear that the Newton, Iowa facility may have to wait a little longer before they can be up for serious consideration. A bid to help fund improvements to the speedway with an $8 million grant from the state of Iowa fell short earlier this summer; the state’s Senate approved the grant, but it didn’t make it out of the House.

According to an interview this week with USA Today’s Andy Hamilton, track designer and minority owner Rusty Wallace has had multiple ideas on track additions that can help it support a potential Sprint Cup race. However, he admitted that “we’re going to need some help” in order to pay for those things.

“We know that NASCAR doesn’t give anybody anything until everything is in place,” Wallace said to USA Today. “It’s [the grant failure] a little bit of a setback because we wanted to put the infrastructure in place to prove to NASCAR that we’re ready for this race and we’ve got it handled.”

“Now they’ve got to go on our word and our goodwill of what we’ve done in the past.”

Wallace believes his track, which he says brings in $60 million annually for Iowa’s economy, may have to go about buying a date from another track in order to get around Sprint Cup’s very compacted 36-race schedule.

“The way things work, it seems like the schedule’s full, and it’s all about buying dates,” he said. “You’re going to have to buy a date from somebody else.”

Iowa has hosted the IndyCars since 2007, and NASCAR’s Nationwide and Truck Series since 2009.

As for tonight’s NNS event at the facility, qualifying for the U.S. Cellular 250 will go off shortly after 5 p.m. ET. The 250-lap race will follow at 8 p.m. ET.

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.