Chase berth doesn’t ease Bristol frustration for Bowyer

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No one could blame Clint Bowyer for being a bit frustrated after last night’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, even though he, along with race winner Matt Kenseth, managed to clinch a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Earlier on Saturday, Bowyer had been setting himself up as a potential contender for the victory. After starting 24th, he got past Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the lead at Lap 126 and then led the next 50 laps.

But it all went by the boards after he made contact with a lapped car and was spun out of the lead on Lap 176. A sliding Bobby Labonte then came along and hit Bowyer from the side on the front stretch.

“I felt like we had a shot at winning and then I got spun out there by a lapper of all things,” said Bowyer. “When I got hit up there, it hit that left-front tire and the car never turned the center as good the rest of the night.”

Although he was able to stay on the lead lap, Bowyer was mired in the field once more, which led to his team playing the pit strategy card to get back track position.

The gambit almost worked out, with the Kansas native coming back into the Top 5 again by Lap 350 and then putting himself in second place for a restart with 50 laps to go. But then more bad luck came along as he ran out of fuel on the last lap.

The final outcome for Bowyer was a 14th-place result – a far cry from what he’d been hoping for. And thus, even with the accomplishment of making the Chase for the fifth time in his career, he still felt unfulfilled.

“[The Chase berth] means a lot, but I’m just really disappointed tonight because we had a really good car,” he said. “Absolutely nothing really went our way all night.”

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.