Montoya praises IndyCar’s “ballsy” call to run in rain; seeks second win Sunday

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AVONDALE, La. – The Verizon P1 Award in Round 2 after a win in Round 1 makes for the best possible start to the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season for Juan Pablo Montoya, even if today didn’t follow a traditional script.

Montoya will start on pole for Sunday’s inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) due to qualifying being canceled following intermittent rain.

Post-qualifying, Montoya reflected on a career that has enjoyed its fair share of success in rain races, and acknowledged how he was almost a bit lucky to get the pole today due to the cancellation.

“I think IndyCar did a great job today making an effort to run the qualifying,” Montoya said. “I think that was a ballsy call, and I think that’s what it takes. I think it was great.”

Montoya survived a brief spin at the end of his group in qualifying, but as it happened right when the checkered flag fell, he didn’t bring out a red flag and incur a penalty.

“To be honest with you, after I spun, when they were bringing me back and they found more water already from those two minutes, it was incredible how much more water was sitting. I don’t know how much this is going to last, and it kind of gave me a bit of a smile, but it is what it is.”

Montoya described the visibility level on the NOLA Motorsports Park circuit, compared to other road or street courses he’s raced on.

“Normally there are a lot of reference points, and you normally look to the side of the track,” he explained. “Instead of forward, you guide yourself from the side. But that’s kind of normal in an open wheel.

“The hard thing is it’s hard because you haven’t driven enough on the wet. You don’t know where the markers are, and you don’t know if the guy in qualifying that first stop, did the guy lift it or keep it wide open?

“In street courses the speeds are so much slower, the water it’s not as bad,” he added. “You saw it get a little on the straight but it’s not as bad because, I mean, you’re going too slow.

“Like Toronto last year in the long straight you couldn’t see anything. Like zero. You go wide open, and you’re just going through the gears, just, hmm hmm. Now I think I’ll start getting on the gas maybe here. That’s how you do it. At least this is how I do it.”

It remains to be seen how the race will run in the rain, if it rains; Montoya thinks it will be possible to run in heavier rain than people realize.

“I think you can run in more water than they think they can. It would be really slow, but everybody will be really slow,” he said. “I mean, if you know there is a big puddle and you need to slow down, if not you’re going to aquaplane, well, then you slow down. You know what I mean? You’ve just got to know how far you can go.

“Normally I’m really good in the rain. Today we struggled, but, I mean, it is what it is. You know, we kind of think we know what happened, and we made a change on the basis of what happened. How you’re thinking it’s going to be good here, and it wasn’t. But, you know, I’m a big boy. I’ll take it as it is.”

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.