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IndyCar teams still full speed ahead on Red Bull GRC prep for 2016

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Most of the Verizon IndyCar Series teams who’ve been in the Red Bull Global Rallycross are in full prep mode ahead of the IndyCar season starting next week in St. Petersburg, but they also aren’t overlooking their respective GRC efforts either.

All of Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, Bryan Herta Rallysport and SH Rallycross are working through their offseason programs ahead of formal team announcements.

Chip Ganassi Racing also stated plans at the end of 2015 to continue into 2016 (team features one and two linked here from November), but is currently focused on all its various other programs in NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA and the FIA WEC. Any announcements of its 2016 program and scale should come later.

Starting with the defending champions, Andretti’s Volkswagen Beetles have gone back to Europe for a tune-up over the winter.

“We haven’t done (testing) any yet,” Andretti Autosport team principal Michael Andretti told NBC Sports.

“We sent the cars back to Europe because they were so beat up from the season. Basically getting back together, and we should be getting going by March sometime.”

Herta, meanwhile, has his Ford Fiesta STs plus a GRC Lites car still in his existing shop.

“We do (the rebuilds) ourselves,” Herta told NBC Sports. “So they’re still going back together in our shop, and the engines are coming back. We’ll start testing there in the next month or so. That season doesn’t start for a while. We have a little bit more time.”

Rather humorously, as Andretti and Herta are partners on the IndyCar side of things, they’ll likely be sworn enemies in the Red Bull GRC paddock.

“That remains separate,” Herta noted. “It’s funny. Michael and I are partners on IndyCar, but we’re mortal enemies in GRC. We’ll hang out together all the time here, but we won’t talk to each other at GRC races!”

Herta said he hopes to have the same format of two Supercars and one Lites car for 2016, although announcements remain a ways off.

“You know me. I tend to hold things back until we’ve got everything in place,” Herta said. “But we’re in good shape for Rallycross.”

James “Sulli” Sullivan of SH Rallycross has confirmed that team’s return for 2016, with further program details likely to come in the next month or so.

“Everything we have going on over there is extremely positive,” Sullivan told NBC Sports. “We will be back 100 percent. It’s a matter of if it’s one car or it’s two.

“Our stance as a team right now, hasn’t changed from where it was last year, we’re only going to do the second car if it is adding value to the overall focus of the organization, which is no longer to win races, but to win a championship.

“We’ve won races there, two years in a row we’ve been in the hunt for the championship and we’ve lost it. So our driver situation is something that’s going to be nailed down and announced in the next 45 days and that’s a good deal. And Jimmy (Vasser) is going to be intimately involved in that program moving forward.”

SH Rallycross has had Nelson Piquet Jr. the last two years, although Andreas Bakkerud filled in for Piquet at last year’s X Games with Piquet unavailable due to his FIA Formula E Championship commitments.

Given there are four IndyCar/GRC weekend conflicts, it’s interesting to see where selected IndyCar personnel will be on those weekends. Andretti noted IndyCar takes precedence, while with multiple team co-owners, Vasser and Sullivan can split races slightly easier.

“IndyCar takes precedence for me because I’m actively involved in the calling of race, so I have to be at them. I fit the other ones in the off weekends,” Andretti said.

“TZ (John Tzouanakis) does a good job. Rob Arnott who does FE, and Roger Griffiths, its in good hands over there. So when I go to those races, I’m not too involved. Here, I directly am.”

“Sulli” added, “The way we’re going into it is we’re going to go wherever we’re needed. But it makes the most sense obviously for us not to both be at one place is the idea.

“So the plan is I’m going to get the KVSH 11 qualified on Saturday (at Indianapolis 500 qualifying, May 21), jump on a plane and get to Phoenix and run the first two rounds there and probably miss the second day of Indy 500 qualifying. As far as the other two (races), we haven’t figured that out yet. That’s as far as we’ve gotten.”

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.