NASCAR: Jamie McMurray misses out on Bristol win, chance to make Chase

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Chip Ganassi Racing veteran Jamie McMurray has to win a regular season race in order to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Last night at Bristol Motor Speedway, he almost pulled it off.

But as we know with this new Chase format, almost doesn’t count.

McMurray was leading the Irwin Tools Night Race at the time of a debris caution with 70 laps remaining. He took the opportunity to make his final stop and was the first of the leaders to pit.

But a group of four drivers – Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kyle Larson, and Paul Menard – chose to stay out. That put McMurray fifth on the subsequent restart, and instead of going forward, he went backward as his No. 1 Chevrolet suffered ill-timed handling issues.

He ultimately finished eighth.

“I don’t know what happened,” said McMurray, who is still in “win or bust” mode at 60 points behind 16th on the Chase Grid with two regular season races left.

“Our car got really tight with about 100 laps to go. We freed it up on the last pit stop and it didn’t really help.”

It’s a tough result for McMurray after he was as strong as he was during the second half of last night’s 500-lap race.

As the night went on, he began to think that he and the No. 1 team were capable of taking home the trophy.

“I thought tonight would be a good night to be able to win,” he said. “As we were running around there, I thought we had a legitimate chance to win tonight if we did everything right.

“It’s not like we did anything wrong. It’s just that as the track rubbered up more and more, it just didn’t suit our car as much as it did for the other guys.

“In the middle of the race when I was lapping all these guys, I couldn’t figure out why they were slowing down so much. And then I was kind of in the same situation.”

Now McMurray must push even harder to get a win either at Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend or in the regular season finale two weeks from now at Richmond International Raceway.

Those two tracks have not been all that great to him recently. He hasn’t finished better than seventh at Atlanta since 2008, and has only one Top-5 finish in his last 10 Richmond starts; this past April, he finished 13th there.

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.