NASCAR: Roster set for October’s Drive for Diversity combine

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NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program has seen some noticeable successes as of late.

Three of its graduates in particular have been especially successful: Kyle Larson’s likely bagged Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year honors, Darrell Wallace Jr. is a regular contender in the Camping World Truck Series, and Mexico Series star Daniel Suarez is heading for the Nationwide Series in 2015.

Time will tell if at least one of the 20 drivers participating in next month’s D4D Combine at Langley Speedway (Hampton, Va.) can make a big name for themselves too.

But for now, they’ll be looking to earn a spot in the D4D’s class of 2015 through the combine.

This year’s batch of prospects largely come from across North America, with one exception: 17-year-old Juan Esteban Garcia Duarte, who hails from Bogota, Colombia.

Two drivers, 25-year-old Abraham Calderon and 18-year-old Ruben Garcia, Jr., come from Mexico. One Canadian, 22-year-old Amber Balcaen, is also set for the combine.

The other 16 drivers in the combine are from the U.S., with perhaps the biggest name of the lot being Kenzie Ruston, the 22-year-old Oklahoma native that set a new record for best finish by a female driver in K&N East history by placing second last month at Iowa Speedway.

Here’s the full roster:

source:

“This year’s Combine applicant pool was among the strongest the program has seen, and we continue to see that year over year,” said Max Siegel, owner of Rev Racing, which helps run the D4D program.

“The program’s visibility and reputation for developing young, female and diverse drivers with talent and growth potential has increased across the board, and we are seeing steady recognition and support from key stakeholders across the motorsports industry.”

Per a NASCAR release, each driver will be evaluated on at-track performance including: Positioning at different places on the track, proficiency in providing in-car feedback to the crew chief, overall speed, and the ability to shift during assessments.

The combine will take place at Langley from Oct. 13-15.

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.