Miles mulls potential Indianapolis 500 qualifying changes

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Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles filled out his executive leadership team on Thursday, and already the new hires C.J. O’Donnell and Jay Frye spoke optimistically about securing new sponsorship for IndyCar 2014.

Now, as part of Miles’ restructuring and attempts to rebuild the entire month of May, he has a potential idea for another set of changes to qualifying weekend for the Indianapolis 500.

The hat tip first goes to OpenWheelWorld.net contributor Steve Wittich for finding this on a Friday night, but Miles appeared on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick to discuss the mooted adjustments.

The two-day qualifying weekend as it currently stands, first instituted in 2010, has Pole Day on the Saturday and Bump Day the Sunday before the 500. On Pole Day, spots 1-24 are filled with the first three rows, positions 1-9, determined by a Firestone Fast Nine shootout in the afternoon. The polesitter is determined at the end of Saturday.

Bump Day fills spots 25-33, but for the past two years since the introduction of the new Dallara DW12 chassis and the new 2.2L V6 turbocharged engine formula, there has not been a single bump attempt. Engine manufacturers Honda and Chevrolet already add extra engines to their allotment for the ‘500; in 2012, some potential late entries were thwarted by a lack of engine availability while only one car, Michel Jourdain Jr.’s third Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, missed this year’s race. And he never even got to make an attempt due to that car’s ill handling nature.

The net effect of that is that broadcasters have had to fill hours of airtime despite scarce on-track activity and limited drama. And Miles doesn’t want a wasted day of on-track action, so he’s outlined this potential plan on the show:

  • Saturday would see all spots 1-33 filled, but all qualifying speeds provisional and the order not finalized.
  • Sunday would see the order 1-33 determined, with spots 10-33 decided by a second day’s run and spots 1-9 again run in the final session to build the excitement for the pole position.

“We’re playing around with ways to make (qualifying weekend) more intriguing,” Miles said on the show. “Pole Day was Saturday and Bump Day was Sunday. We thought at this point that’s a little anticlimactic.

“In our mind, (this would) culminate at the end of Sunday, and I think that makes the two days even more competitive.”

Recent Indianapolis 500 qualifying procedures have included 11/11/11, with three days of 11 spots being filled before a Bump Day on the fourth day, from 2005 to 2009; a condensed three-day run was enforced from 2001 to 2004; it was Pole Day and Bump Day for two days from 1998 through 2000; and was four days prior to that.

No official confirmation has come from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or INDYCAR as to whether this idea will be implemented.

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.