NASCAR Hall of Famers Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett weigh in on prospect of winless champion

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As you’d probably figure, NASCAR Hall of Famers and current TV analysts Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett were both complimentary of the new Chase for the Sprint Cup format during a 30-minute meeting with the media today at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But when posed with the question of how NASCAR could explain things if a winless Ryan Newman claimed the Sprint Cup title this Sunday, Jarrett appeared to be stumped.

“Good question. Sometimes, there’s just not complete explanations for everything,” he said. “I mean, the whole thing was set up to reward winning.”

And yet Newman – who has collected just four Top-5s and a mere 41 laps led this season, and has not finished better than third over his last 51 races – can win it all by beating Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, and Denny Hamlin in the Ford Ecoboost 400.

So what would Jarrett do to ensure that such a scenario could not exist?

“I proposed something to NASCAR and maybe I’ve said this to a number of y’all before…My solution to the situation – and we’ll use this year – Ryan Newman’s here but the only way he could become the champion if he wins this race,” he said. “Otherwise, the other three are the ones racing for the championship, to finish ahead of each other.

“Obviously, that doesn’t help this year, so to kind of answer the question, I don’t know. You can’t even say – a lot of times, you try to make the comparison with the Patriots going undefeated [in 2007] and then losing the Super Bowl. Well, the [New York Giants] won games before then, so they had to win. You can’t even do that [comparison].

“So, there’s just not an explanation other than you gotta give ’em credit.”

As for Wallace’s thoughts on the subject, he said that Newman has proven that you can get the job done either way: Winning or consistency.

“If he doesn’t win [Sunday], he’ll probably be consistent – and there’s a good opportunity he could win,” he said. “But I’d hope that the public is educated by now that there’s two ways to do it. I’m sure some of them aren’t. But I know for the excitement and for the goodness of the sport – I mean, it’s crystal clear, if you win, you punch your ticket and get to advance. Plan B is to be consistent.

“So, I’ve always looked at it that way. If you win, cool. If you don’t win, you better be damn consistent. Two things, not just one thing. But I know the hype going in was ‘You gotta win, you gotta win, you gotta win.'”

So if Newman does take the title, will this mean yet another tweak to the Chase?

Earlier today, Brian France said the probability for such in 2015 was “very modest to zero,” but Jarrett said that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it ensured that the champion had at least one race win in his pocket.

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.