Mark Miles: “We are not going to have a five-month season” in 2016

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In a nearly one-hour teleconference with the media Wednesday, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles began to make clearer what to expect from the series’ 2016 schedule.

The only real definitive statement Miles made on the schedule was related to its length.

“We do not expect to have a five-month schedule, nor was that ever the goal,” Miles said. “The idea was not shorter and less, it was to see if we couldn’t slide the schedule while actually growing it earlier in the year to be in a more ideal or beneficial television period.”

The 2015 season, made of 16 races following the cancellation of the original opener in Brazil, started at the end of March and will conclude on Aug. 30 at Sonoma Raceway, a week before Labor Day. This follows an 18-race schedule in 2014, and 19 races in 2013, although tracks have dropped off the calendar both years.

Miles said he’s always pursued a seven-month season with anywhere between 16 and 20 races.

“The number of events, more is not necessarily better, it has to work on the calendar against many of these factors,” Miles said.

One of the issues with IndyCar’s schedule, which Miles reiterated, is IndyCar would have tough competion with a crowded sports and TV schedule once Labor Day passes.

“I think I can invite any number of television executives to a call like this and without exception we would hear them say that from a television perspective, the post Labor Day period for us will be a challenge,” Miles said. “We are not going to have a five month season next year … I think we’re going to have some good options at the beginning of the year. We’ve got some races that are on the schedule we’ve got to know for sure are going to be with us next year, from their perspective.”

Next year, Labor Day weekend is when IndyCar will hold its inaugural Grand Prix of Boston. Miles called the race a “new anchor” for the schedule. However, IndyCar must still determine how early next season will begin and whether it wants to Boston to be the season finale.

“As we were finalizing our agreements with Boston … they absolutely wanted Labor Day, and we weren’t prepared at that point to commit that would be the finale, the last weekend of the year, so we asked them what was their preference, to be last or to be Labor Day and they chose Labor Day,” Miles said.

“We granted their wish and we have not yet decided when the season is going to end. It may well go later than Labor Day. That’s not our goal because we know among all these variables, additional races after Labor Day will not help our average viewership and average ratings, but there are other considerations.”

Many issues with this year’s schedule came with the moving up of the Toronto race to the second weekend in June due to a conflict with the Pan-Am games. Miles gave Toronto an example of an event that has “date equity.”

“At an owner’s meeting before we finalized the issue, we raised the issue with the owners, and the answer was if your choice is to give (Toronto) a sabbatical and take a year off or move, and moving involves prolonging the back-to-back weekends past Indianapolis in May, past Detroit, past Texas, then do it,” Miles said. “We will suck it up. So on the one hand, date equity is a goal, it’s a value, but it isn’t ever going to be perfect.

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.