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Max Chilton hails ‘best race of my IndyCar career’ in INDYCAR GP

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INDIANAPOLIS – Max Chilton enjoyed what he called easily the best race of his Verizon IndyCar Series career Saturday in the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Starting 14th, Chilton took the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Honda up to seventh at the finish of the fifth race of 2017 after a spirited drive that featured several solid passes and good pit work all around.

The result was a nice bounce back finish after improving slightly from 16th to 14th to 12th in the opening three races, and then getting taken out in Mikhail Aleshin’s triggered first lap accident at Phoenix.

This also matches his best IndyCar finish to date, which was seventh last year at Phoenix. Chilton’s only road course top 10 last year was 10th at Watkins Glen.

“That was my best race in IndyCar, full stop. One of my best ever,” Chilton told NBC Sports post-race. “From lights to flag, with no safety car, pure racing, pure speed, and no people doing crazy moves on restarts, that was one of the best of my career. It was only seventh, but to come from 14th when you can’t easily get people, was a really good day.”

Chilton made his own inspired pre-race decision to start on Firestone’s black primary tire, which meant he could get off them at the first pit stop and move forward from there on the softer, faster, red alternate tires. Graham Rahal was the only other driver able to match Chilton’s pace from there as they could run reds the rest of the race.

It’s the first sign of Chilton’s improved confidence and pace in his sophomore season actually translating to results. He’s had pace this season at times, notably in testing, but hadn’t really delivered a result of note. He continues to work well with engineer Brandon Fry and strategist Julian Robertson.

“I hardly did any fuel saving. It was go, go, go… then save your tires and get your moves done,” Chilton explained. “From six or seven laps in, I knew it’d be a good day. I started on blacks, which was my call, and I sort of went off the engineers.

“We had a great gap and didn’t have to worry about what was behind me. (James) Hinchcliffe was maybe a tenth quicker a lap than I was on blacks. The second stint I’d piss them (on pace) and we did. We had such great speed.

“Rahal was the only car that caught me all race. I’m not sure what planet he was on. But at the end I caught him again when he got held up by Marco. That was a great race. It all went to plan. We did a faultless job. You can have a faultless day, even when you don’t get up there.”

Over the moon with this result and as he noted one of his best drives in his career overall, Chilton will now look to better what was a respectable debut finish of 15th in last year’s Indianapolis 500, his second career oval race. That’s now where he sits in the points as well, ahead of a race where qualifying points are awarded and the race triggers double points.

“I know it’s only seventh, but coming from 14th with pure overtaking, made it a top, top day,” he said.

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.