Jeff Gordon: M’ville penalty, not Texas run-in with Keselowski, hurt title hopes the most


After Jeff Gordon’s elimination from the Chase for the Sprint Cup with one race to go in the 2014 season, many of his fans have cited his late-race contact with Brad Keselowski at Texas as the moment where his “Drive For Five” was derailed.

And while Gordon was ruing the Texas incident in the immediate aftermath of his elimination, the NASCAR icon now apparently finds himself haunted not by that race, but another.

In the Eliminator Round opener at Martinsville Speedway, Gordon was leading after a round of stops under caution at Lap 188 only to be penalized for speeding on pit lane.

The four-time Cup champ fought back valiantly to finish second behind winner and teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., but if not for that penalty, Gordon may have scored the win that would have propelled him into the Championship 4 for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Instead, Gordon finished 29th at Texas after his run-in with Keselowski, which caused him to suffer a tire failure that eventually led to you-know-what.

One week later, he was then knocked out in the Eliminator finale at Phoenix after Ryan Newman shoved Kyle Larson aside to finish 11th and beat Gordon for the final transfer spot to the championship race by one point.

“The incident at Texas got obviously intense and lot of drama and led to more than I wish it ever led to,” Gordon said per Dustin Long of MRN. “I’ve put more attention on the mistake that I made at Martinsville on pit road.

“I think that would have given us as good or better chance of winning that race to move us on to Homestead as the incident at Texas. What I did at Martinsville, that was a big mistake.”

Gordon’s elimination from the Chase put a damper on an otherwise successful season for him and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team. Carrying momentum from their strong 2013 Chase, Gordon scored four victories (including a fifth career triumph in his beloved Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis) to fuel a late-career renaissance.

Still, even though he’s surely feeling confident in regards to the big picture after a strong 2014, it would seem that not being able to compete for the title gave Gordon some pause.

“You have to move on,” he added to MRN. “You have to learn from it. You have to let go. It’s not easy. I’m fairly good at moving past things like that. It depends on the sting.

“Some take longer than others and that was a big sting…”

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.