James Hinchcliffe cleared to drive by INDYCAR after suffering concussion

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The bad news today regarding the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda had a mechanical issue during Indianapolis 500 practice – in the words of Andretti Autosport fill-in driver EJ Viso, “the engine blew up.”

The good news is that its usual driver, James Hinchcliffe, is now cleared to drive after he suffered a concussion on Saturday in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He progressed throughout the week and was re-evaluated today.

The official medical update from INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Michael Olinger is that Hinchcliffe has been cleared to resume racing after being re-evaluated today & passing ImPACT test.

Here’s a statement from Hinchcliffe released by the team:

“It goes without saying, I’m thrilled to be back in the United Fiber & Data car. It’s been a long couple of days watching everyone practice, but obviously getting healthy was the number one goal. I really want to thank everyone at INDYCAR Safety, INDYCAR Medical and IU Health for their great care. Also, to Jim Leo with PitFit Training for helping with the rehabilitation, and of course a big thanks to E.J. (Viso) and the team for all the hard work during practice. The car looks fast and I can’t wait to get out there and get up to speed.”

And here was Hinch’s tweet of thanks:

Viso has filled in during the week, totaling 250 laps, and ended Tuesday’s truncated day of practice fastest.

Viso was hoping to get some laps back in later Thursday if the team put a new engine in the No. 27 car, and that could still be possible.

Alternatively, and more likely, the team could make the change back to prep the No. 27 for Hinchcliffe.

Viso said he had no idea as to whether the team would be able to put together a sixth car for him, and while backup chassis are available, Andretti’s already stretched with five IndyCars this month.

Plus, an engine lease would be Honda’s 19th, something Honda has not signed off on beyond the 18 they already have allotted this month.

Put this way – Viso has done the job he’s been asked to do, and it’s doubtful we’ll see a sixth car emerge from the stable to see him return to the track.

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.