Dale Jr., Johnson weigh in on latest twist in Tony Stewart saga

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Tony Stewart won’t be facing criminal charges following his involvement in a fatal sprint car accident last month.

But for at least two of his peers on the Sprint Cup circuit, relief isn’t exactly the emotion they feel so much as continued sympathy for him and for the family of Kevin Ward Jr., the driver struck and killed by Stewart’s car on Aug. 9 at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he tried not to pay too much attention to the Stewart saga, but noted that “you get something in the pit of your stomach that is sort of this frightfulness or this fear for Tony and what he is having to deal with.”

“Just having known him for all these years, you can imagine that he is going through something super emotional and overwhelming by a huge measure,” he added. “There is sort of a sickness…for what Tony is going through, but at the same time you never really forget that somebody was killed.

“There is a family with a hole in their heart and they have got to figure out a way to live out the rest of their lives with this always on their mind. It will have a huge effect on both sides for so many years. It’s just super-duper unfortunate.”

Earnhardt’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, Jimmie Johnson, was also asked to share his thoughts on Stewart being cleared of charges.

Like Earnhardt, he too emphasized the sadness of Ward’s death. But he also admitted that the revelation of Ward’s toxicology report saying he had marijuana in his system (enough to impair judgement according to Ontario County (N.Y.) District Attorney Michael Tantillo) was “shocking to see.”

“From a friend perspective and worrying about Tony and understanding what he’s gone through and how tough this has been on him, I’m sure there is some type of relief that it’s kind of done, in that respect,” Johnson said.

“But at the same time, coming back to the Ward family, even in the remarks I read from Tony, I’m sure he feels okay about not having this go any further and there being legal actions.

“A civil suit is still out there and that can happen for any reason; to anybody in this room. But, the other side of it, still first and foremost on Tony’s mind is that it was an accident and his heart is still out for the Ward family.”

Stewart declared his innocence in an interview Thursday with the Associated Press that was released earlier this morning.

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.