NASCAR: Brian France talks possibility of mid-week races, road race in Chase

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The new Chase for the Sprint Cup format had a nice start in 2014, but NASCAR still has to figure out other ways to augment its current fan base with newer ones.

A concept that has been repeatedly batted around for some time now is mid-week races, particularly during the summer months where NASCAR would face less TV competition from other sports.

In the past, drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, and Ryan Newman have championed the idea.

But NASCAR Chairman Brian France didn’t seem too keen on it during his Tuesday appearance on Motor Racing Network’s NASCAR Live radio show.

“One challenge that we have, among others, is the current events that we have – no one wants to give any of those up, so start with that,” France said when asked about the subject by host Eli Gold.

“The other challenge that we would have is we don’t have home teams…What we rely on are 80 to 100,000 – and even more – people to make a weekend out of something, drive on average 200-plus miles, often stay more than two days, and bring their families.

“When you start doing that in mid-week with school and everything else – even in the summer – those kind of opportunities to draw people to these big speedways becomes more difficult.”

And while the aforementioned new Chase format has provided a jolt to NASCAR’s post-season, a common complaint about the Chase remains that its current 10-track lineup could use a shakeup.

Five of the 10 tracks are 1.5-mile, intermediate ovals that already dominate the Cup landscape, and they include Homestead-Miami Speedway, which hosts the season finale.

A road race in the run to the championship could provide some more spice, especially considering how good NASCAR’s product on the twisty tracks has become.

But France indicated that perhaps we shouldn’t be holding our breath on that, either.

“We’re not opposed to it, but from a calendar standpoint, there’s only two [Sprint Cup road course] venues of course, and both of them like their dates for different reasons,” he said. “So, [it’s] unlikely to see that happening, only because of, really, how the dates fall.”

Sonoma Raceway in California hosts Sprint Cup in late June, while Watkins Glen International in New York State has its Cup weekend in early August.

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.