NASCAR: Belgium’s Kumpen takes Whelen Euro Series title at Le Mans

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This past weekend at Le Mans’ Bugatti Circuit, Anthony Kumpen of Belgium secured the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series title by one point over two-time and defending series champion Ander Vilarino of Spain.

Vilarino started the Le Mans Finals doubleheader on Saturday with an 11-point lead over Kumpen. That day’s race appeared to be won by Eddie Cheever III, but the son of the former Indy 500 champion was penalized 30 seconds for gaining positions while not respecting track limits – handing the victory over to Kumpen, who had finished second on track.

With Kumpen now first and Vilarino placing third, the Spaniard’s championship lead was cut to one point going into Sunday’s final battle.

Sunday started under the safety car due to wet track conditions, and pole sitter Vilarino picked up bonus points for leading the opening lap.

But when the green came out, Cheever raced to the lead and never looked back en route to victory and a measure of redemption for what occurred the day before.

While Cheever was cruising, Vilarino and Kumpen were left to duke it out for the title. But on the fifth lap, Vilarino not only lost second to Kumpen but, most critically, third as well to Frederic Gabillon of France.

The latter position swap proved to be the difference, as Kumpen’s second place finish gave him the slim edge he needed to dethrone fourth-place finisher Vilarino.

“It’s fantastic to win the championship in our first year with a new project,” said Kumpen. “I looked at NASCAR for all my life and now that NASCAR is in Europe, to be the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Champion is a dream come true.”

Kumpen, who drives the No. 24 car in the Euro Series, also got a shout-out on Twitter from another No. 24 – four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon:

Kumpen will now join the rest of the NASCAR touring series champions in being honored during a December ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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.