Johnson: “We’re just not where we want to be right now”

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The question was blunt, and the answer was too.

“You’ve only led 28 laps in the last 15 races, so how are you guys going to fix it?” Jimmie Johnson was asked during his Thursday media availability at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Johnson didn’t sugarcoat the answer.

“We’re just not where we want to be, bottom line,” he said. “This sport is not forgiving and past results doesn’t buy you a damn thing in the present.

“We’ve been a third to fifth-place car, but we haven’t been a dominant car. We need to find that extra tenth to get our mojo going.”

He’s suddenly 12th in the points after an accident in Kansas with Greg Biffle; the 40th place finish was his worst Chase result since 2005.

Suddenly, the usually Chase-invincible Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team, led by crew chief Chad Knaus, are on the verge of being eliminated.

Johnson won the Coca-Cola 600 in May, the last time NASCAR raced in Charlotte. But he said he cannot afford to rest on his laurels and admitted the team wouldn’t be able to win with its May setup.

“If we came back with the May setup, we’d be two or three more tenths off (now),” Johnson said. “We’re taking track records down by couple tenths from spring to fall races. You don’t have a chance to sit still in this sport, and you have to progress on the car.”

Johnson is extra determined to get a win – or good result – achieved at Charlotte considering the wild card that is Talladega next week.

“Maybe the format has heightened that some,” he said. “You only have three races to advance here. From my own standpoint, I’ve usually been in a good situation in Charlotte, but I always wait til I get to Talladega. That one’s always lurking. It’s always out there waiting for us.”

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.