Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Leist (Carlin), Piedrahita (Pelfrey) added to Indy Lights field

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Two more names have been confirmed to the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires lineup for the 2017 season, with one driver back for his fourth season and another coming over for his first one.

The BRDC British F3 champion, 19-year-old Brazilian driver Matheus Leist, will come Stateside for Carlin after winning four races and edging Ricky Collard for last year’s title. He’s also tested in GP3.

Photo: Carlin Media
Photo: Carlin Media

“I’m very excited to be joining Carlin in Indy Lights” said Leist.  “I had quite a few options open to me in 2017, but a combination of things, including the opportunities in the US and on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, made Indy Lights a great option for me.   I have raced against Carlin before so I know how hard they push as a team to win.  I’m incredibly excited to get out on track in the car and get the season underway.”

Juan Piedrahita, meanwhile, will be back for a full-time campaign with Team Pelfrey. Piedrahita ran the full 2014 and 2015 seasons and most of 2016 before withdrawing with a few races remaining.

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“We are extremely happy to welcome Juan back to Team Pelfrey IL for the 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires,” said Pelfrey team manager, Gary Neal. “We built a lot of momentum in post 2016 season testing with Juan and I am sure we will see some great results this season.”

Neil Alberico (Carlin) and Garett Grist (Pelfrey) have also tested for those teams in preparation for the season, and Aaron Telitz (Belardi Auto Racing) has also done a wealth of testing for that team. None of those three have been formally confirmed for 2017 as yet.

This brings the confirmed number of drivers to 11 with three to four more expected to be named, and an estimated 14-15 cars for the St. Petersburg season opener.

The Indy Lights grid so far:

  • Carlin: Garth Rickards, Matheus Leist
  • Andretti Autosport: Dalton Kellett, Nico Jamin, Ryan Norman
  • Andretti Steinbrenner Racing: Colton Herta
  • Belardi Auto Racing: Santiago Urrutia, Shelby Blackstock
  • Juncos Racing: Kyle Kaiser, Nicolas Dapero
  • Team Pelfrey: Juan Piedrahita

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.