NASCAR: Wood Bros. plan expanded 18-race Cup schedule for Ryan Blaney (VIDEO)

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The 65th anniversary season of Wood Brothers Racing will apparently go a bit longer.

This afternoon during the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, team co-owner Eddie Wood confirmed that its planned 2015 Sprint Cup schedule has been pushed to 18 races thanks to the tentative addition of six more events.

“Our normal commitment is with Ford Motor Company and their Motorcraft and Quick Lane brands, and we’re gonna run our 12 races like we’ve been doing for the last few years,” Eddie Wood said. “We’ll run the speedways and the faster mile-and-a-half [tracks].

“But we’re excited to say that we’ve been working really hard through our [technical] alliance with Team Penske, and we’ve tentatively added six races to our schedule. You want to race every week, and it kills you when you’re not there. We’re really thankful that we’re able to do that.”

Eddie’s brother and fellow team co-owner, Len Wood, told reporters that the six new events are Kentucky, the first race at New Hampshire, the Bristol night race, the Southern 500 at Darlington, and the Chase races at Chicagoland and Charlotte.

The decision means more seat time for the team’s new driver, Ryan Blaney, who will also compete for both Penske in the XFINITY Series and in a limited role with Brad Keselowski Racing in the Camping World Truck Series.

Blaney made his first two career Sprint Cup starts in 2014 for Penske, finishing 27th in his spring debut at Kansas and then 22nd in the Chase race at Talladega.

With his Wood Brothers debut at the Daytona 500 drawing closer, Blaney says he has been immersing himself in the team’s rich history by visiting its museum in Stuart, Virginia.

Through those visits, he has discovered just how important the team has been to the sport and also how much common ground he and the team have.

“This family legacy is pretty unique to me,” Blaney said today. “I come from a long family of racing, and that’s the same with the Wood Brothers. It’s kind of neat. It’s really special and something we can share. I think that’s gonna create a really good bond.

“Because that’s all we want to do – myself, the Wood Brothers, and [crew chief] Jeremy Bullins – all we want to do is win and do well. That’s all we care about: Racing.”

Blaney was also excited about the Wood Brothers’ new alliance with Team Penske, saying that it would help them make “the next step to where we need to be.”

As for his crew chief, Bullins, this opportunity is a homecoming for him. He worked on the Wood Brothers’ Pro Cup and Late Model cars in 1999 before moving up to race engineer on their famous No. 21 Sprint Cup team, a role he held from 2000 to mid-2002.

He rejoins after a successful three-year run as crew chief for Penske’s No. 22 NXS program, where he helped them win 21 races and two NXS owner championships. Blaney himself contributed two of those victories.

“It’s special in a lot of ways,” Bullins said. “One, to be able to continue our relationship with Team Penske and having good teammates to work with in the 2 [Keselowski] and 22 [Joey Logano]. But the Wood Brothers is where I started. This is where I got my first opportunity. To come back here as the crew chief and be able to lead the team is a great opportunity.

“Ryan and I have worked together since 2012. There’s a relationship there and we feel like we can build on that history and get ourselves in a position to be successful.”

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.