IndyCar: Hawksworth drives from last to third for first career podium

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Starting 23rd and last on Sunday, there wasn’t much in the way of odds on Jack Hawksworth scoring his first career podium finish in the No. 98 Integrity Energee Drink BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda.

Then again, this was a Verizon IndyCar Series weekend in Houston where nothing seemed to go according to odds and plan. And thus, the English rookie who’s shown so much speed in qualifying and some races this year delivered a dynamic comeback drive from the rear of the field up to third by the checkered flag.

A methodical drive forward coupled with being in the right position on pit strategy left Hawksworth in the top five despite a flurry of mid-race cautions. From there, his final stint of the race saw him, Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball locked in an intense battle for fourth place, with Hawksworth doing everything within his power to hold the other two off.

Fourth became third when Will Power had a mechanical issue with two laps remaining, and suddenly Hawksworth made it through to the podium behind the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates.

It betters his Saturday result of sixth, after he’d started 21st, which had been his previous best result. Additionally, it’s the team’s first podium finish since the team’s first and thus far only career victory achieved by the late Dan Wheldon at the 2011 Indianapolis 500. In two full seasons of 2012 and 2013, the team captured several top-fives but had not returned to the top three.

“Just a fantastic day really. We’ve started at the front so many times but it’s not happened for us. Today we were terrible qualifying and ended up on the podium,” Hawksworth said to NBCSN post-race.

“We passed cars at the right time. It’s been tough, we’ve been so good this year but it hasn’t come together. I’m just so delighted for the whole team. Just really proud of all the guys, totally deserved.”

Hawksworth is the fourth rookie and 16th driver overall to score a podium this season. He praised the level of competition as well.

“The competition in the whole field has been strong all year,” he said. “Really anyone can stick it on the pole or win a race. And each weekend it seems to change. So you have to be perfect every weekend.”

And on a weekend where he had a practice crash and two of his worst starts of his young career, Hawksworth made his results count.

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.