NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 7 Matt Kenseth

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Matt Kenseth

Season finish: 6th
2014 Season Stats: 0 wins, 13 top-5, 22 top-10, 2 Poles.

What went right: Unlike Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, Kenseth’s season was entirely consistent. He was the first driver to clinch a Chase spot on points. And he fought hard and long enough in the Chase to at least end close to where he hovered in the regular season points standings most of the year, in sixth.

What went wrong: As has been the case for so many runners-up in the following year, the season saw a performance dropoff, and in Kenseth’s case that witnessed a reduction from seven wins to zero wins. There was also, of course, that infamous blowup at Brad Keselowski post-race at Charlotte… some may view that as a case of “what went right,” but you know something had to go wrong to Kenseth to trigger such an unexpected outburst.

2015 Prospectus: Together with crew chief Jason Ratcliff, the No. 20 team should be focused on a return to Victory Lane. They’re the only JGR team retaining the same driver/crew chief lineup into 2015. Kenseth will have ex-Roush Fenway driver Carl Edwards as a teammate once more, which could rekindle their successful relationship together there.

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.