Helton: Evidence to punish Waltrip team came from Vickers, not Bowyer

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Hastily organized or not, at least there was a media availability Monday evening from NASCAR President Mike Helton and Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton regarding the penalties assessed to Michael Waltrip Racing from earlier in the day.

Perhaps the most noteworthy item from the press conference was Helton’s admission that based on available evidence, it was actually the radio transmission between MWR driver Brian Vickers and crew, and not Clint Bowyer’s caution-causing spin, that triggered the fines, points penalties and ultimate removal of Martin Truex Jr. from the 2013 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“There’s not conclusive evidence that the 15 spin was intentional. There’s a lot of chatter. There’s the video showing a car spinning. But we didn’t see anything conclusive that that was intentional,” Helton said.

Helton said that the combination of video evidence, timing & scoring information, and radio conversations are all available at NASCAR’s disposal to utilize. He and other NASCAR senior officials spent Sunday and all of Monday discussing the circumstances, and invited MWR team officials to NASCAR’s Research & Development Center.

The conversation then shifted to what had, in fact, been the cause for penalty in NASCAR’s eyes and that’s where Helton took the chance to elaborate.

“The preponderance of things that happened by Michael Waltrip Racing Saturday night, the most clear was the direction that the 55 car was given, and the confusion around it, and then the conversation following that occurrence. That is the most clear part of that preponderance. That is the most clear part of what we found in all the detail to make that conclusion,” Helton said.

Helton said Ty Norris, who received an indefinite suspension as a result, admitted to the radio transmission.

“Ty confirmed the conversation that most everyone in this room has heard over the radio with the 55 driver,” Helton said.

Attacks from teams, team members, fans and media on NASCAR’s credibility have been heard, and Helton said NASCAR has to work to maintain its level of credibility.

“As far the as credibility of the sport, NASCAR has always taken very serious its responsibility to maintain for the most part its credibility,” he said. “I say ‘maintain for the most part,’ because we get the fact that that’s subjective to fans and others in the industry. But that’s why we’re sitting here, in hopes that we did that. Sometimes it gets out of bounds in order to maintain credibility.”

If credibility isn’t on the line for NASCAR on the whole, it certainly is for Waltrip’s team, which now has another black eye after a major issue at its first ever race as a team in the 2007 Daytona 500.

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.