NASCAR: Ben Rhodes wins K&N East championship, then does pre-calculus homework

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17-year-old Ben Rhodes’ dominant season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East culminated with him clinching the series title last night with a fourth-place finish at Greenville Pickens Speedway.

Rhodes seized the points lead thanks to his inaugural series win at GPS in March. He then went on to claim four more wins (those four coming in succession), and now holds an insurmountable 62-point lead going into the season finale on Sept. 26 at Dover International Speedway.

But earning a championship in one of NASCAR’s top minor leagues did not earn Rhodes a “get out of homework” pass. Rhodes is a senior student at Holy Cross High School in Louisville, Kentucky, and one day after his big moment at GPS, he’s back to hitting the books:

As for last night’s race, Rhodes needed a finish of 13th or better to clinch the title. But in the opening moments of the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 140, he was hit with a drive-through penalty for jumping the start from pole position.

However, Rhodes was able to stay on the lead lap and had driven up to seventh by the halfway break at Lap 70. He would get as high as P2 in the second half of the race before dropping a few spots in the last restart of the night with 12 laps to go.

“I was really mad at myself for [the mistake at the start], but I had to refocus and get back to the front,” Rhodes said in a post-race release. “Once I got up there, I thought about racing for the win again, but the car wasn’t as good during the second half as it was during the first.

“When the caution came out at the end of the race and I had to restart on the outside lane, I knew I needed to just protect the points.”

Austin Hill won the race ahead of Cameron Hayley, Gray Gaulding, Rhodes, and Nick Drake. Hayley will look to secure second in the championship later this month at Dover; he holds that spot by 20 points over Brandon Jones, who finished seventh in the race.

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.