St. Pete race ticket renewals now available; track time one to watch

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While it won’t be the official season opener for the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2015, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg does serve as the kickoff to the North American campaign and the debut of aero kits for IndyCar next year.

Fans interested in renewing their tickets for next year to the Green Savoree Promotions event can now do so, via the link on the race website homepage.

This was perhaps glossed over in the midst of the rule changes announcement INDYCAR made a little more than a week ago, but St. Petersburg has one day listed by INDYCAR as an on-track Promoter Day – Friday, March 27.

The timing of that date is very significant. The St. Pete weekend should be a barnburner, as besides IndyCar, all three Mazda Road to Indy series (Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000) and the Pirelli World Challenge GT/GTA/GT Cup and GTS classes will be in action.

The track has not released a weekend schedule yet, and one of the things to watch will be how much track time each series gets.

If IndyCar only runs Friday as a test day without official sessions, that would leave the majority of the running to the other five classes that day. It would be similar, in a sense, to the Friday that occurred at Sonoma Raceway this year, where PWC and MRTI were on-track all day and there was no IndyCar on-track running at all.

The complication in terms of track time comes with PWC’s split of the GT and GTS classes into standalone races for next season. Through this year, GT and GTS raced and practiced together, but were split for qualifying. Next year, a split is expected for all of practice, qualifying, and the races.

So while the amount of actual series racing on the weekend doesn’t increase – the same five championships that ran at St. Pete will do so again in 2015 – how each series works with the race promoter to determine how much track time they’ll get is going to say a lot.

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.