Carl Edwards falls 2 laps down, comes back to finish 9th and boost Chase hopes

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In what may prove to be a season-saving performance, Carl Edwards rallied from two laps down to finish ninth in Sunday’s Eliminator Round middle race at Texas Motor Speedway.

With that, the Chase contender all but erased his deficit behind the cutoff to advance to the Sprint Cup Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

What was a 15-point gap going into Sunday has now been whittled down to one point behind Jeff Gordon, holder of the fourth and final advance position to South Florida.

Considering how much Edwards struggled over the first half of the race, the Top-10 finish is a small miracle for him and the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing team.

Edwards started 11th but a tight condition on his car caused him to fall back during the opening stint. At Lap 102, he was running in 24th position when he was put one lap down by eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson, and on Lap 165, Johnson passed him again to knock him two laps off the pace.

That led to a bit of needed strategy to help Edwards climb out of the hole.

On Lap 222, a caution came out for debris and Edwards was advised to stay out on the track to take the wave-around and pull within one lap down. Through continued adjustments on the car and several other cautions, Edwards was able to put himself in position for the free pass (first car one lap down), and he got it thanks to a yellow on Lap 295.

Edwards was back on the lead lap, but now had to charge from 25th position and get as much as he could over the final 40 laps. With the help of several late restarts, Edwards was able to do just that.

Now, remarkably, he’ll have a chance to make the Championship next weekend at Phoenix, where he’s won twice in his Cup career.

“We got super luck there at the end and my guys never quit,” he said. “I am so proud of my guys…We certainly finished better than we should have tonight. It was a great night, when for awhile it didn’t look like it was going to be.

“We get to move on to Phoenix now and we will know what we have to do there. We will take it. My guys didn’t quit and I know they won’t quit and we are going to go next week and go for this thing.”

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.