Kyle Larson breaks slump with strong 3rd-place finish at Loudon

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Kyle Larson had such an outstanding start to his rookie Sprint Cup season that it seemed like good things and his good fortune would go on forever.

Then came the previous three races – at his home track of Sonoma, followed by Kentucky and the second race of 2014 at Daytona.

Larson finished 28th, a season-worst 40th and 36th, respectively (the last two due to wrecks), at those three races and saw himself plummet from seventh in the Sprint Cup standings after Michigan in mid-June to 17th after Daytona.

That’s 10 spots in the points in three races.

But Sunday at New Hampshire, not only did Larson finish third – his second-best showing of the season – he also jumped from 17th to 14th in the points standings.

As a result, at least until the next race – the Brickyard 400 in two weeks – Larson is in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, currently scored 16th (last) in the Chase driver rankings.

Now if he can only hold on to that mark in the remaining seven races leading up to the Chase.

“Great pit calls and the Target Chevy was real good,” Larson said of his finish. “I thought we definitely had a capable car to run top three and the last restart worked out for us. Hat’s off to everybody on this team.”

In a way, the previous three finishes were a learning experience of sorts for Larson, who turns 22 on July 31. After achieving so much success so quickly in the season, the Sonoma through Daytona stretch brought him and his team somewhat down to earth and caused them to regroup.

And regroup they did Sunday, even though some early and perhaps what might be looked at as unconventional pit strategy could have backfired. Fortunately for the No. 42 team, it did not and Larson excelled just like he had done so earlier in the season.

“It was going to take a really dumb call, or what would look dumb would hopefully work out, and it did,” Larson said. “We were able to lead some laps and maintain our track position all race long after that.

“These race cars have been a lot faster this year than in the past. I want to really thank those guys and I’m really just having a blast now.”

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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.