Rahal disappointed in IndyCar’s ‘change of heart’ over Castroneves penalty

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FORT WORTH – Graham Rahal said he wouldn’t make a comment on IndyCar’s decision to reduce penalties to Helio Castroneves’ team following the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9.

Then he did anyway.

Rahal shared his frustration in IndyCar reducing Castroneves’ penalty for avoidable contact with Scott Dixon that started a Lap 1, Turn 1 crash that also involved Josef Newgarden and Jack Hawksworth. The original penalty of eight points was reduced to three.

As a result, Castroneves switched points positions with Rahal, putting the former in fourth behind leader Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“I think once a penalty’s done, it should be done,” Rahal said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. “To change it a month later…but, you know we’re going to focus on beating Helio this weekend and getting those points back. If we can do that, we’ll be just fine.”

The initial penalty came following a race in which Rahal finished second for the second week in a row. That was part of a stretch where the Rahal Letterman Lannigan Racing driver finished in the top five in four out of five races. The only exception was a 23rd-place finish in race one of the Dual in Detroit, when Rahal was involved in a Lap 5 crash.

“Particularly now with the sudden change of heart on the Helio penalty it makes it hard because we lost a spot in the championship there,” Rahal said. “It’s frustrating obviously because my team, I think everybody’s worked very hard this year,” Rahal said. “We feel like in St. Pete we got hosed with a penalty. We still feel that way. That took us out of a top three, top four right there.”

Castroneves thought the reduction was fair.

“I obviously to this day think it wasn’t anything intentional,” Castroneves said after his qualifying attempt for the Firestone 600. “I did everything I could to avoid contact (with Dixon). At the end of the day, I think it’s fair for what happened and we’ll move on.”

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.