NHRA: Alan Johnson Racing moves forward without Al-Anabi

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Despite losing its top sponsor and benefactor, Alan Johnson Racing plans on going forward in the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

The drag racing world was shocked when it was announced in early January that primary sponsor and team owner Al-Anabi Racing had ceased all funding for the two-car Top Fuel dragster team, effective immediately.

MORE: NHRA shocker: Qatar Racing Club suspends sponsorship, Al-Anabi plans TBD

Johnson will apparently run the team – a one-car operation for now with 2013 Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon behind the wheel – out of his own pocket, but is continuing to seek sponsorship, according to National Dragster magazine. Khalid alBalooshi, who drove the second Al-Anabi dragster, will not return for 2015 – at least not with AJR.

“We enjoyed our six years with Al-Anabi Racing, and we experienced great success,” Johnson said in a team media release. “We appreciate the opportunity to compete for Al-Anabi Racing and thank Sheikh Khalid [Al-Anabi Racing team owner, Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani] for everything he did for us. We had a great run, but now we must move on and focus on the future.”

Brian Husen and Jason McCulloch will serve as co-crew chiefs on Langdon’s dragster.

The team fully intends on taking part in the season-opening 55th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 6-8, in Pomona, Calif. It is also entered in the following race in Phoenix, but it’s unclear how long AJR will be able to sustain without additional sponsorship.

“We are going to Pomona with every intention of winning the Winternationals,” Johnson said. “We are in discussions with multiple entities about sponsoring our race team, and part of that process is showing the level of excellence at which our team competes.

“We won the Winternationals last year, and our goal is to repeat as Winternationals champions next weekend.”

AJR won NHRA Top Fuel world championships in 1997, 1998 and 2000, as well as in 2010, 2011 and 2013 with the Al-Anabi partnership. The team won 42 races in the last six seasons with drivers Larry Dixon, Del Worsham, Langdon, and alBalooshi.

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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.