Newman still in position to advance to Homestead; Kenseth now on outside looking in

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Like everyone else in the field, Chase contenders Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth were looking to make as much hay as they could when the AAA Texas 500 restarted with 17 laps to go.

But shortly after the green flag flew, Newman and Kenseth made contact in the middle of the tri-oval as Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch jockeyed with them to their inside and outside (pictured right).

Somehow, the four-wide situation didn’t end in a crash. But the contact between Newman and Kenseth left the former with a tire rub, while the latter ceded valuable track position.

While Newman recovered to finish 15th following two more cautions and two green-white-checkered attempts, Kenseth ultimately faded to 25th place.

Newman now sits third on the Chase Grid with an 11-point cushion, while Kenseth has fallen out of the top four advance positions for the Sprint Cup Championship Race; he and Carl Edwards are now one point behind fourth-place Jeff Gordon.

“We did not get the finish we deserved, but it is what it is,” said Newman. “We raced in the Top-5 all day until we got hit hard and it caused a tire rub. Timing worked out for us and we were able to rally back.

“I have to thank the pit crew today, they were on their game. It was a solid team effort for us and I look forward to Phoenix. We have a shot at advancing to the final Championship Round and that’s all this Richard Childress Racing team can ask for.”

However, Newman wasn’t entirely thrilled with NASCAR over the amount of debris cautions it threw during the second half of the race. In the first 167 laps, only one yellow flew and that was for debris. But in the final 167 laps, 12 yellows came out and six of them involved debris.

To Newman, the amount of yellows were “totally unnecessary.”

“We need to keep racing,” he said. “And it’s sad to see, but that’s the way they’ve been playing it.”

As for Kenseth, he had recovered from a slow pit stop under a yellow at Lap 252 that knocked him back to 18th and took the 17-to-go restart in 10th prior to his contact with Newman.

Kenseth couldn’t overcome that and he’s now on the bad side of the cutoff. But he says his mindset going into the Eliminator Round finale at Phoenix International Raceway next weekend remained the same.

“Obviously, today was a disaster as far as where we finished and how at the end of the race I couldn’t pass cars that got lapped earlier in the race – by the end of the race,” he said. “So, it was a poor performance on the scoreboard. [But] just the same approach going to Phoenix, just go there and try to do the best job we can.”

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.