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IndyCar’s Mark Miles: Honda will get new aero kits; Boston race concerns

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In a Wednesday morning media teleconference, Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman Motorsports, parent company of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, expressed confidence in both Honda’s application for a new aero kit package for 2016, as well as that lingering logistical issues for next September’s inaugural street race in Boston will be worked out.

Honda has requested an alteration of its aero package for 2016, citing Rule 9.3 in the Verizon IndyCar Series rule book.

“(Rule 9.3) is in the rule book and has been in the rule book,” Miles said. “It anticipated the possibility that one manufacturer would outperform the other to the extent that there was a competitive disadvantage and that that could result in a situation that’s detrimental to the series.

“So the rule has this two-part test. It says, in the event that an aero kit is not competitive to such an extent that it would be detrimental to the series, then IndyCar may permit a manufacturer to make modifications in its kit related to what they ran in the various configurations in 2015.

“IndyCar has notified both Chevy and Honda that our conclusions from that testing and our subsequent thinking about whether the situation is detrimental to the series was that, in part, we are going to allow Honda to make adjustments or changes, or to propose making specific changes under Rule 9.3. In short track, street and road courses, the Honda was not competitive. However, on superspeedways, that was not the case, Honda was competitive. This is designed to give them an opportunity to catch up, but not exceed (Chevrolet).”

IndyCar made its determination using a variety of statistics culled from the entire season, including qualifying, laps led, races won and the overall results in the championship.

Honda has already proffered the parts it would like to include in the 2016 aero kits.

“Honda has provided us with parts we are to consider approving,” Miles said. “We will be going back into the wind tunnel this weekend with the parts and we’ll examine how we will reply.

“We are following the letter of our rule. We’re walking the line to follow our rule.”

Miles added that Honda has willingly agreed to follow all of IndyCar’s guidelines in proposing changes to the aero kits.

“We never felt like there was a gun placed to our head by Honda,” Miles said. “They never said to us, ‘You’ve got to deliver this result in terms of an opportunity for us to change our aero kits and accept these changes or we’re not staying in the game.’

“I think they’re committed to IndyCar. It’s probably worth noting for the skeptics that they still don’t know, we still don’t know, we still haven’t determined what changes they’ll be able to make.

“We determined they’re not making changes to the 2015 superspeedway kit, full stop. But with respect to what they may or may not be able to do for the other configurations, those are still decisions to be made and will only be made after we get back in the (wind) tunnel and have the next round of work there.”

Not completely unexpected, Chevrolet officials disagree with IndyCar’s decision.

“All manufacturers received the same set of aero regulations and subsequent updates,” Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President, Chevrolet Performance Vehicles and Motorsports said in a statement. “I am proud of how our Chevrolet engineering team and partners worked continuously for nearly four years to prepare our kit for the optimal combination of downforce, drag and engine performance to give our teams the best opportunity to win poles, races and championships.

“The existing rules already allow each manufacturer the opportunity to improve on the performance of their aero kit and engine for 2016. So, we are disappointed in the decision to invoke Rule 9.3. Chevrolet remains 100 percent focused on preparing for 2016 competition to again give our teams the best opportunity to win.”

Miles also addressed Honda’s return as an engine supplier is getting closer to fruition.

“The answer to the question is that it’s all systems go,” Miles said. “This week we expect to receive a mark-up of the agreement that Honda will be ready to sign and we’ll be reviewing that and hoping we can get it done in the next several days.”

As for next September’s inaugural Grand Prix of Boston, Miles remains upbeat that remaining issues will soon be resolved.

Promoters of the Boston race have already reached agreement with city officials on the race, but have lagged in reaching consensus agreement with several state agencies upon whose property is part of the proposed two-mile-plus street course.

“(Boston officials) want this race to happen,” Miles said. “I think they’re making it clear that they expect everybody to fall in and get these agreements done to eliminate any uncertainties about it happening. … Our expectation is that everything will be worked out and the race will happen and delight IndyCar fans.”

Miles also discussed concern about possible opposition to the race from local community and civic groups.

“We and all concerned understand that threading the needles and getting the approvals to have a street race in a major metropolitan area is difficult, difficult to sustain even after you have it,” Miles said. “We’re aware of the challenges but think that the risk/reward to have the opportunity to do something great in Boston is there.

“… It’s complicated and difficult. We’re not doing this in a pasture. We’re doing it in the Seaport District of Boston. But I believe that the will of the elected leaders, the mayor in particular, and the resources and commitment of our promoter are all focused on getting this done. I thought it was important that the promoter publicly made it clear that they understand that they will not be receiving public funds from any of these public agencies or the taxpayers, if you will, and that they’re prepared to meet all their obligations to successfully stage the race under those circumstances.”

If the Boston race ultimately falls through, leaving the circuit with 15 instead of the scheduled 16 races for 2016, Miles said the sanctioning body is working on a potential contingency plan to replace Boston with another venue.

“It would be imprudent of us not to consider a fallback position for us, alternative plans, in the event we’re not successful in Boston,” Miles said. “I don’t want to elaborate. I think there’s at least a few scenarios that could be possible. I don’t think we have to have a replacement if that was the case, but it’s certainly something that we’re thinking about.”

As for other topics Miles addressed:

* IndyCar will host a safety test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 6.

“Honda and Chevy can supply 2016 superspeedway aero kits to the teams, they will be run on the track,” Miles said. “We want to do it early enough that if there’s anything to be learned about the 2016 superspeedway kits, there is time to make any adjustments so that we have the best possible 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 imaginable. This is, I think, an important addition.”

* On the search for a replacement for Derrick Walker, former IndyCar President of Operations and Competition: “We’re close,” Miles said. “I’d say in the next couple weeks; could conceivably be next week. I don’t expect it to be later than the week after. … The person won’t be an unknown quantity or stranger to the sport.

* Last weekend’s very successful Formula One race in Mexico City may be a precursor to IndyCar racing there in the near future: “It’s a great facility. It’s a big event, right? It has a big impact in Mexico City. That’s a huge market. I hope their success simply further enhances their appetite for open-wheel racing, and IndyCar in particular. They showed they can pull it off. We look forward to continuing conversation with them.”

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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.