Cooperation, healthy respect made Martin to Stewart deal possible

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When asked how many parties were needed to sign off on Mark Martin’s filling in for Tony Stewart for all but one of the remaining 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, Stewart-Haas Racing competition director Greg Zipadelli was candidly vague.

“A lot,” Zipadelli said, without putting an actual number on it. “To be honest with you it just kind of happened. Everyone was very cooperative. Hat’s off to MWR. It’s them getting a jump start, too. It’s that simple, that casual of a conversation. It could help Stewart Haas Racing and MWR both.”

The breakdown of races for the rest of 2013 is Martin will run 12 of the 13 events for SHR, and his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Brian Vickers will now run 12 of the final 13 in the No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota. The exception will be at Talladega as Austin Dillon (SHR) and Michael Waltrip (MWR) will take over the Nos. 14 and 55.

Martin expressed a wealth of gratitude for the opportunity. It’s his fifth different new team since he and Roush Racing parted ways at the end of 2006 (Ginn/DEI, Hendrick Motorsports, MWR, Joe Gibbs Racing).

“I’m incredibly honored,” Martin said. “The guy is so amazing; he’s the modern day A.J. Foyt. He drove anything and everything and was fast. Tony is a guy that really does that. We’ve been good friends for quite some time with amazing mutual respect. It’s an honor to be in this situation where we’re able to do this. I’m really, really sorry that it comes as his expense.

“One thing I do want to say, is that there is an amazing amount of cooperation to get this deal done by so many parties,” he added. “I haven’t seen this much cooperation in the past. It’s largely in part because the incredibly amount of respect in this sport for Tony Stewart.”

Pressed on 2014 plans, Martin wasn’t biting because he knows the mountainous task ahead the rest of this year.

“I don’t have a plan, and I have much less of a plan right now than a week ago,” Martin said. “I was part-time, and now I’m racing all but one race, with what I feel is a lot of challenges and pressure. I don’t want to think about 2014 at all right now.”

“But you know my motivation is not for points; it’s for racing. If I’m running 20th, I’ll bust my butt to run 19th.”

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.