Penske Power: Logano, Keselowski top Cup quals at Chicagoland

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After being put on probation for the rest of the year by NASCAR, Penske Racing delivered a message of its own by sweeping the front row for Sunday’s Chase-opening GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Chase contender Joey Logano (pictured, right) will roll off from the pole position after posting a lap at 189.414 miles per hour around the 1.5-mile oval, just ahead of teammate and defending Chicagoland race winner Brad Keselowski (pictured, left), who turned in a lap at 189.248 mph.

Earlier today, NASCAR announced that both Penske and Front Row Motorsports would be on probation until Dec. 31 thanks to radio communications between the two squads during the closing laps of last Saturday’s race at Richmond International Raceway.

That decision was overshadowed by NASCAR’s other edict that came this afternoon: Making Jeff Gordon a part of the Chase as a 13th driver. Logano, who has defended his place in NASCAR’s post-season stretch, didn’t have much to say about Gordon being added to the Chase field.

“It isn’t my decision who is in the Chase and who isn’t,” Logano said this afternoon. “I drive the race car and NASCAR makes the call they feel is right. All I really care about is that this Shell Pennzoil Ford is in the Chase and we have a shot at a championship. Anything outside of that, I don’t really care.”

As for Keselowski, who will be unable to defend his Sprint Cup title of one year ago after failing to make the Chase, he’s looking forward to showing that he and his team are still very much competitive.

“It was a decent lap for sure and the Penske cars – we have put a lot of effort into this weekend and getting the Chase started off on the right foot,” Keselowski said. “I wish we were a part of it, but it shows the speed we will have. I look forward to the next 10 weeks and putting some wins on the board.”

In all, seven of the now 13 Chasers will start from inside the Top 10 for Sunday’s race: Logano from the pole, Kasey Kahne from fourth, Gordon from sixth, Greg Biffle from seventh, Carl Edwards from eighth, Jimmie Johnson from ninth, and top seed Matt Kenseth from 10th.

As for the other Chasers: Kyle Busch will go from 12th, Kurt Busch from 16th, Kevin Harvick from 17th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. from 18th, Ryan Newman from 20th, and Clint Bowyer from 24th.

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.