Ray Evernham leaving ESPN for expanded role at Hendrick Motorsports

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Ray Evernham is going from in front of the cameras to back behind the scenes.

Evernham announced on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “SiriusXM Speedway” that he will not be part of ESPN’s NASCAR broadcast team in 2014. Rather, Evernham will further expand his role as a consultant to Hendrick Motorsports, which he has done for nearly the last three seasons.

“Now not doing the ESPN thing will allow me to be involved in some of the management and some of the things that they’re doing at (Hendrick) Motorsports,” Evernham told show hosts Dave Moody and Angie Skinner. “The best way to avoid a conflict of interest is to choose one or the other. I’m excited about being able to go and being involved in the management team on the motorsports side.”

Evernham, who led Jeff Gordon to three Sprint Cup championships in the 1990s, will essentially be going back to his roots as an innovative mechanic, serving in HMS’s competition department. He’ll work with the organization’s four Sprint Cup crew chiefs as well as others in an attempt to further enhance HMS’s overall performance.

He will also sit atop the pit boxes of all four teams, although he’ll only likely attend 15 races, similar to what his schedule with ESPN was last season.

But don’t think that Evernham’s expanded duties mean he’ll be returning to his old crew chief days, which is all the more poignant because HMS will be looking for a new top-level crew chief soon. Steve Letarte will leave HMS as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief at the end of the 2014 season to assume a role as an analyst on NBC Sports’ TV broadcasts of NASCAR, which begin in 2015.

Evernham has repeatedly said he will not become a crew chief and reiterated that with Moody and Skinner.

“I’ll be working with everybody at Hendrick Motorsports,” he said. “I’ve met with crew chiefs. I think I’ve got a good perspective as they face different challenges. I will be going to meetings and be involved in competition things that I’ve not been involved with in the past three years or so.”

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.