INDYCAR

Bourdais helping Coyne drivers at Toronto, eyes return

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TORONTO (AP) Sebastien Bourdais is trading in his helmet this weekend for the IndyCar race in Toronto. And he is looking ahead to a possible return near the end of the season.

The Frenchman is returning to the race track in a mentorship role for Dale Coyne Racing just two months after a crash during qualifying for the Indy 500. The two-time Toronto winner will help out team rookies Ed Jones and Esteban Gutierrez. Bourdais finished seventh in Toronto last year.

Bourdais fractured his pelvis , a hip and two ribs when his car exploded into pieces and spun through Turn 2 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after hitting the wall at 227 mph.

“If I see something, then I’ll try and help, and if I don’t, then I’ll just shut up and see what happens,” Bourdais said Thursday.

“I’ve been around this place a lot, but there’s only so much you can do from the outside so we’ll see how I can help them. It was important for me and the team to show up for the first time since the accident and just get to see everybody and try and contribute to the effort.”

Bourdais, 38, was walking without crutches and says his progress is ahead of schedule. He is not ruling out a return this season.

“Unless I get in the car in testing and call it quits because I’m not ready, the plan is to do Watkins and Sonoma,” Bourdais said of the final two races of the season. “That’s been my goal since really looking at the time frame and where we were going to be at the six weeks weight bearing, the eight weeks walking.”

Seeing the four-time IndyCar Series champion back around the track was a welcome sight. Will Power stopped to chat with Bourdais after the news conference.

“It’s great to see him back, can’t wait to see him in a car,” he said.

Bourdais, who started the season with a win at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, said that he has been starting to exercise again, which includes some cycling.

“It’s kind of a weird feeling because there’s some groups that are fairly equal side to side and one little thing that you feel very vulnerable,” Bourdais said. “But it’s all coming back nice and slow, but it’s going to be a bit of a process for sure.”

Being in a coaching position is nothing new for Bourdais, but it’s never come at the expense of him being sidelined. He said he’s fine with the mentorship role even though it’s tough not to be in the car.

“I’ve tried to be a good patient, not trying to rush things and do anything stupid,” he said. “But obviously now that I’m feeling not 100 percent but not far from it either, it’s definitely kind of itching to get back into the car.”

 

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.