Runner-up result puts Kurt Busch, FRR in the Chase

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After fighting and scrapping throughout the Sprint Cup regular season, Kurt Busch and his single-car Furniture Row Racing team received their just reward Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.

Overcoming early pit woes with a pace that never flagged on his No. 78 Chevy, Busch took home a second-place finish in the Federated Auto Parts 400 to clinch a spot in NASCAR’s post-season stretch.

Of course, the job is not yet done. As he indicated on Thursday, Busch, a former Sprint Cup champion, is not here to simply make the show, but to put a second Sprint Cup on his mantle.

Still, the glassy, emotional eyes he sported in his post-race television interview seemed to indicate that he knew the magnitude of his accomplishment tonight.

After damaging his reputation with several controversies in the past, he has won back many fans with his efforts this season for the Colorado-based FRR. Now, he and the little team that can – not could, can – will be dueling with the big boys this fall for a title.

“It’s been a journey,” Busch told ESPN. “It’s been a great ride of trying to persevere and go up against the odds, when certain things are against you that are out of your control – and sometimes, you induce things that put you in the position to have to dig hard and keep working.”

Busch took the lead for the first time at Lap 66 and once more at Lap 110, but lost it after a slow stop on pit road under yellow at Lap 136. The FRR pit crew’s problems through the regular season had been a focal point going into tonight’s race.

But after that issue, Busch quickly picked himself back up, moving up to second by the halfway point of the race. His team then gained redemption on his next stop (also under yellow), enabling their man to leapfrog early contender Brad Keselowski for the lead.

Busch would eventually give up the lead on the next green stint, but kept within the Top 5 for the remainder of the night.

And with Jeff Gordon, his main nemesis for the 10th spot in the Cup standings, having to rally from two laps down after pitting under green for a loose right-front wheel, it became more and more clear that Busch was going to pull it off.

Afterwards, Busch praised his team for a job well done.

“[Team owner] Barney Visser started this with these guys in Colorado years ago, and here we are in the Chase,” he said. “And when you get a guy like [crew chief] Todd Berrier to come in and help arrange things, cut weight out of the cars, knows his way around the garage – he’s a veteran leader.”

“…We’ve got some muscle in us. We haven’t won a race yet this year, but we’re in the Chase and we’ve got a good ten weeks ahead where we can do some great things.”

The Chase begins next weekend in Chicago, and with that, the final chapter together for Busch and FRR will begin as well. Next year, he’ll move on to what will be a four-car armada at Stewart-Haas Racing.

But thanks to their work tonight at Richmond, at least this feel-good story is going to have a few more pages.

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.