NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 17 Kyle Larson

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Kyle Larson

Season finish: 17th

2014 Season Stats: 0 wins, 8 top-5, 17 top-10, 1 Pole.

What went right: Replacing Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Target Chevrolet, Larson had an outstanding first full season in the Sprint Cup Series, performing better than many veteran drivers during the overall 2014 campaign. The 21-year-old capped off the season by winning Rookie of the Year honors. He came so close to winning several times, most notably runner-up finishes at Fontana in the spring, and Loudon and Kansas in the fall. Larson had one of the best debut seasons of any driver in the Cup Series in a long time, and holds the promise of even greater things to come.

What went wrong: If there was one thing that went wrong for Larson was his tendency at times to be over-aggressive in some races, and it ultimately cost him either in the form of a wreck or damage to his car. How many times did he rim ride around the top of a racetrack and continually skimmed the right side of his car on the outside retaining wall? Far too many. While we love his aggressiveness and style of an old-school racer, Larson has to learn to pick his spots better. We’re not criticizing him. Improvement will come in time.

2015 Prospectus: Larson is almost assured to break through for his first Sprint Cup win. If and when that comes, more wins will likely be sure to follow afterward. This young man has all the markings of a future Sprint Cup champion. If he can avoid the noted NASCAR sophomore season jinx, he could be a serious player in 2015. We see him winning at least one race, making the Chase and could surprise quite a few people by going two or three rounds in the Chase.

MORE: Ganassi’s IndyCar, NASCAR stars set for another Rolex 24

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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.