Mark Martin returning to Roush Fenway Racing in unique role

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Legendary NASCAR driver Mark Martin is returning to Roush Fenway Racing.

But don’t expect Martin, 55, to get back behind the wheel any time soon.

Rather, he’ll be helping those RFR drivers who will be behind the wheel themselves.

The organization announced Thursday morning that Martin will assume a newly-created role as driver development coach.

“The thing that always stood out about Mark was his unmatched drive to win,” team co-owner Jack Roush said in a media release. “Mark put us on the map and I am pleased to have him as a part of our team again.

“Mark is not only a good friend but he’s also a fierce competitor and I truly admire his passion and dedication to racing. I have no question that you will be able to see his influence on our young drivers. He understands what it takes to win and to be able to do that on a consistent basis and he’ll be a great asset to have back within our organization.”

Martin, who has not raced this season but also has not ever officially said he’s retired, will return to the team that he spent almost two decades with.

Martin was the first driver Roush hired when he formed Roush Racing – which eventually would become RFR – back in 1988.

Martin earned 82 wins under the Roush banner: 35 in Sprint Cup and 47 in Nationwide, as well as four runner-up finishes in the yearly Cup championship.

“I’m excited to return to Roush Fenway Racing,” Martin said. “It feels like I’m going home to where I belong.

“I was fortunate to help build this team from the beginning and it’s very humbling to be a part of Jack’s team again. When Jack first hired me in 1988 we didn’t talk about salary or benefits or perks, we talked about testing, tires and putting the right personnel into place to win on the track. That commitment is what stood out to me then and it’s still what stands out to me today.”

Martin is expected to work with RFR’s younger drivers, including 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, two-time Nationwide Series champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and rookies Chris Buescher and Ryan Reed. He’ll also help, if needed, veteran Greg Biffle.

“Roush Fenway has an abundance of young, talented drivers and I’m looking forward to working with each of them going forward,” Martin said. “I am very proud of what Jack and I were able to accomplish together and I am excited to expand on those accomplishments.

“I understand what it takes to succeed in this business and appreciate the hard work, dedication and focus required to compete at the highest level week in and week out. We have a great crop of young drivers. … It will be a key part of my job to help them develop their skills behind the wheel and get the most of their exceptional ability.”

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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.