Staying balanced in Chase critical for Kevin Harvick, No. 4 team

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Kevin Harvick led a race-high 79 laps last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, only to fade to fifth after he and Kyle Larson were passed for the lead by eventual winner Brad Keselowski with 15 laps to go.

Nonetheless, P5 is a good start for him in the Chase’s Challenger Round, which continues this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Harvick figures that he simply needs two more solid weeks like that to safely enter the Contender Round as one of the Top 12 in the Chase Grid.

And in order to do that, knowing when and when not to take a chance will be important.

Take the series’ most recent visit to NHMS in July. Late in that race, Harvick took on two tires in a pit stop and was told to save as much fuel as he could.

That helped the team gain critical track position, but when the race was taken into green-white-checkered, Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart Haas Chevrolet ran dry on the restart. Instead of challenging Keselowski for the win, he finished 30th.

“I think there is a balance, I know for us, that we’ve tried to focus on, because it’s really not something that you want to flip the switch on and off as far as how you call a race and how you run a race…Now you have to take that fifth or six-place finish and move on and not wreck the car,” Harvick said this week.

“I think as far as going for it and trying to make up two laps of fuel or something like that like we did [at NHMS in July], you can’t do those types of things unless you’re just in a desperate position where you have to win a race.”

However, Harvick believes that the team’s improvement in consistency since Indianapolis will help them avoid such a scenario.

From the Brickyard 400 onward, they’ve garnered two runner-up finishes, four Top-5s, and six Top-10s in the last eight races. And they could have very well won last month at Atlanta if not for Harvick getting caught in a green-white-checkered crash.

Then there’s the new pit crew members that have migrated to the No. 4 crew for the Chase. Last Sunday at Chicagoland, the crew had a mishap with a loose wheel that forced Harvick to take an early restart in 22nd, but bounced back to help him get up among the leaders again.

Altogether, Harvick remains optimistic about what lies ahead.

“I feel like with the speed and all the things we have, that it’s just going to come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes as a group,” Harvick said. “You’ve got to have a little good luck to go along with that and hopefully, we’ve used our bad luck up along through the year and we can have a good 10 weeks.

“I’m excited and confident. You just never know how these things are going to play out, but if it plays out right, I think we have just as good a shot as anybody.”

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.