Nico Jamin's No. 27 Andretti Indy Lights car. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Entry lists released for St. Petersburg

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The entry lists for the three rungs on the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires are out today, ahead of the season-opening weekends at St. Petersburg.

More than 50 drivers from 14 countries are present across the board; more previews for these series will come throughout this week.

Quick notes from the three series and the entry lists are below:

Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires (15 entries)

  • The 15 drivers entered are the same as at the Spring Training test at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Andretti Autosport led both the oval and road course portions of the test.
  • That 15-driver entry is broken down between seven returning drivers (Santiago Urrutia, Kyle Kaiser, Neil Alberico, Dalton Kellett, Shelby Blackstock, Zachary Claman De Melo, Juan Piedrahita) and eight rookies (Aaron Telitz, Nicolas Dapero, Matheus Leist, Garth Rickards, Nico Jamin, Colton Herta, Ryan Norman, Pato O’Ward).
  • Carlin has won three of the four races at St. Petersburg the last two years. Ed Jones swept in 2015 on both the team and driver’s U.S. debut; Felix Serralles won race one last year before Belardi Auto Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist won race two.
  • The Indy Lights races from St. Petersburg have a 2 a.m. ET air time on March 18 on NBCSN.

Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires (14 entries)

  • A better than expected field of 14 cars will feature all participants from the Spring Training test at Homestead-Miami Speedway and a bunch of extras that didn’t test there last week.
  • Young guns Phillippe Denes (World Speed Motorsports), Max Hanratty (ArmsUp Motorsports) and Matt Machiko (FatBoy! Racing) add a bit of extra interest to the field. Hanratty had previously been announced with Leading Edge Grand Prix, but that team’s entry has not materialized.
  • Look for Juncos Racing to make an interesting driver announcement on Wednesday as Ricardo Juncos’ team, which wasn’t originally planning to run Pro Mazda this season, now is set to return after all with two cars.
  • Team Pelfrey swept last year’s St. Petersburg races with Pato O’Ward and Aaron Telitz winning one race each. Neil Alberico (Cape Motorsports) swept 2015, Spencer Pigot (Juncos Racing) swept 2014, and Matthew Brabham (Andretti Autosport) swept 2013. It’s been since 2012, when Connor De Phillippi (Juncos) and Jack Hawksworth (Pelfrey) made it two different teams that won in a weekend at St. Petersburg.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda (22 entries)

  • Six returning drivers (Parker Thompson, Luke Gabin, Ayla Agren, Robert Megennis, Dakota Dickerson, Lucas Kohl), 15 rookies and one TBA make up the field of 22 cars for the USF2000 season opener, with all cars but one the new Tatuus USF-17 that makes its race debut. One National Class entry still fields the previous generation Van Diemen.
  • Rinus Van Kalmthout switches from Benik, where he was initially announced, to Pabst Racing in a third car. He has also tested for Newman Wachs Racing.
  • Pabst has swept the weekend here the last two years with Jordan Lloyd and Yufeng Luo winning once apiece last year and Jake Eidson winning both races in 2015. In 2014, Victor Franzoni (Afterburner Autosport) and RC Enerson (Team E) split the wins. It’s been since 2013, when Scott Hargrove swept for Cape Motorsports, that the six-time defending champion team has won at St. Pete.

Race schedule

  • Indy Lights: Race 1, Sat., 5:10-6 p.m. ET; Race 2, Sun., 9;45-10:45 a.m. ET
  • Pro Mazda: Race 1, Sat. 11:50 a.m.-12:40 p.m. ET; Race 2, Sun. 4:30-5:20 p.m. ET
  • USF2000: Race 1, Sat., 8:40-9:20 a.m. ET; Race 2, Sat. 2-2:40 p.m ET

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.