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On same day as Le Mans, Hulkenberg stretches tire life in Baku

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Perhaps overshadowed by Sahara Force India teammate Sergio Perez, who graced the podium in Sunday’s European Grand Prix at Baku, Azerbaijan, Nico Hulkenberg still had a decent day of his own en route to his third consecutive points finish.

Hulkenberg started 12th and finished ninth, thus adding that result to finishes of sixth in Monaco and eighth in Canada the last two weeks.

Key to his race today was his final stint on Pirelli’s supersoft tires, having stretched them the last 31 laps in the 51-lap race.

“Just about at the end they were shaved. They had nothing left!” Hulkenberg told NBCSN’s Will Buxton post-race.

“It was a tricky race. I had a good start. Then I got hit into Turn 1. I couldn’t recover from a spin. Then we lost a couple positions at the exit of Turn 1. From there onwards, I had to go through traffic a bit. So 30 to 31 laps was a big ask.”

Interestingly, Hulkenberg’s day of tire saving occurred mere hours after the team he drove for this weekend last year – Porsche Team – captured the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Le Mans, of course, requires quite a bit of tire saving and double, triple or sometimes quadruple stinting the tires.

Asked by Buxton about Porsche’s shock win, which came when Toyota’s leading No. 5 car ground to a halt in the final five minutes, Hulkenberg had nothing but congratulations to offer.

“Congrats to Porsche. To everyone in the team. I’m very excited to be honest, to hear that,” he said.

“I know how hard these guys work, they fully deserve it. Congratulations from the bottom of my heart!”

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.