Alonso reckons Ron Dennis would have blocked Indy 500 attempt

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Fernando Alonso believes that former McLaren boss Ron Dennis would have blocked his bid to join the grid for the 101st Indianapolis 500.

Dennis announced in November that he had been forced out of McLaren after more than 35 years at the helm of the F1 team and company, overseeing a number of championship wins and the growth of its road car division.

Dennis was replaced by American businessman Zak Brown, whose efforts to secure Alonso a ride for the Indy 500 led to Wednesday’s shock announcement, the Spaniard entering as part of a joint effort between McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport.

Speaking in Thursday’s FIA press conference in Bahrain, Alonso admitted that he did not think Dennis would have agreed to let him take part in the ‘500 and miss the Monaco Grand Prix had he still been in charge of McLaren.

“I guess not. I think Zak is a man that has a bigger vision than other team principals or bosses that I have had,” Alonso said.

“He sees motorsport differently, he sees McLaren bigger, not only concentrated in Formula 1. McLaren won Le Mans a couple of times, won the Indy 500 a couple of times as well.

“I think he’s a true racer so it’s great McLaren and Zak joined forces last year, that’s a good thing.”

Alonso’s entry to the ‘500 comes at a time when McLaren’s F1 operation is struggling on-track, with the two-time world champion seemingly resigned to another year of making up the numbers.

However, he stressed that McLaren’s struggles did not influence his decision to join the grid at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, instead relishing the chance to try and win one of motorsport’s biggest events.

“It’s true, it’s a good motivation. The possibility to win a big race, a big trophy like the Indy 500 in the middle of a year is like winning a world championship in one weekend,” Alonso said.

“You have two possibilites in one year. It’s very attractive, but it’s not that it came to our mind because this year we are struggling or the last two years we are not competitive.”

Alonso did, however, admit that he would not have agreed to miss Monaco for the ‘500 had he been in contention for the championship.

“If the car was competitive this year and we were 43 points together with the other two guys you could not afford to lose 25 points possibility by missing one race,” Alonso said.

“So probably it would be different if we were competitive.”

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.