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Schmidt, Andretti announce semi-autonomous race at INDYCAR GP

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Sam Schmidt and Mario Andretti never raced each other in their driving careers. Andretti retired from IndyCar after 1994 while Schmidt’s driving career was cut short due to a devastating accident in 2000 (he’s paralyzed from the neck down) before carving out a successful career as a team owner.

But, they’ll have their first chance to race each other in a warm-up act for this year’s INDYCAR Grand Prix from Indianapolis on May 13.

Ahead of the race on the 2.439-mile road course, Schmidt and Andretti will race head-to-head in a pair of Arrow semi-autonomous Corvettes around the track. Details, lap counts and charity information will follow at a later date – proceeds will go toward Conquer Paralysis Now.

Schmidt has raced the Corvette at the track before on the oval, and topped out at more than 150mph during a demonstration on qualifying day last year for the Indianapolis 500.

Schmidt and Andretti had some solid banter during the announcement today. Here’s the back-and-forth between these two, with Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles offering his input:

Schmidt: “The company (Arrow Electronics) is so special on so many levels. There are so many positive benefits. We never had the opportunity to race against Mario in my own driving career.

Andretti: “So you’ll do it under unfair circumstances? (laughter)

Schmidt: “Just like you at Daytona back in the day. (laughter)

“But it’s a huge honor. Everyone looks up to Mario in the paddock, on and off the track.

“It’s nice to not be a team owner in this situation. It’s been a great ride. I’m honored to be a part of the program. We’ll do a couple more things this year.”

Andretti: “If I beat you, do I get a ride in your team for the 500?

Schmidt: “Yeah he would race a cardboard box if you gave him the opportunity to race. You didn’t learn your lesson when you flipped?

Boles: “I’m fully supportive of that.

Schmidt: “If you beat me, in 2018, you’ve got a ride in the Indy 500… we’ll go kick your son’s (Michael) ass.”

Further details will come later today, but it adds an extra degree of interest to the first of two IndyCar races at the Speedway in May.

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.