NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 18 Jamie McMurray

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Jamie McMurray

Season finish: 18th

2014 Season Stats: 0 Wins (won non-points Sprint All-Star Race), 7 Top-5s, 13 Top-10s, 2 Poles.

What went right: A late run enabled McMurray to win the Sprint All-Star Race in May at Charlotte, and while the event was non-points, we doubt he cared too much about that considering he banked a cool $1 million for his victory. His performance in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet also picked up noticeably towards the end of the season with four Top-5s and five Top-10s during the Chase stretch. That run included his best finish of the year, a third at – where else? – Charlotte.

What went wrong: McMurray couldn’t follow up the All-Star triumph with a berth in the Chase. Inconsistent results over the summer meant that he would have to win a regular season race in order to make the post-season. With that in mind, he endured perhaps the toughest moment of his year in the Bristol night race. McMurray came alive in the second half of that event and was leading when a debris caution came out at 70 laps to go. He pitted but instead of moving back up with the fresh rubber, handling issues made him fade to eighth by the finish.

2015 Prospectus: After a year where he improved in Top-5 and Top-10 results from 2013 but failed to enter the battle for the championship, McMurray will look to take care of the latter problem with a new crew chief in Matt McCall (former race engineer for Championship 4 contender Ryan Newman). If they can find a rhythm early together, the Hendrick-powered 1 camp could more often be among the series’ regular group of front-runners.

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.