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Zach Veach confirmed with Andretti Autosport in fourth car

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Zach Veach, a young American driver, has been confirmed Wednesday as Andretti Autosport’s fourth driver for 2018 in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

The partnership announcement about this year and likely beyond for Veach is slated for Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

“We are excited to give Zach the opportunity to show what he can do at the highest level, and I’m looking forward to welcoming him home, so to speak,” said Michael Andretti, CEO, Andretti Autosport. “Zach started his INDYCAR career with us in USF2000 and has driven in every step of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder with Andretti Autosport. He’s a driver that has always impressed me. Zach works hard, and he takes something away from every time he’s in the car – he’s constantly improving. He’s put the effort in, found success at every level and now his dream has come full circle.”

The 22-year-old American driver made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut April 23, 2017, at Barber Motorsport Park and his Indy 500 debut at this year’s 101st Running.

“I’ve been thinking about this day since St. Petersburg in 2010 when I sat beside Michael Andretti announcing that I’d be competing in USF2000 for his team,” said Veach. “To be driving in the Verizon IndyCar series with them is a dream come true and I can’t wait to get started.”

This solidifies Andretti Autosport’s four-car full-season lineup in mid-September, as Veach will join an all-American quartet alongside long-term drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti, and the recently re-signed Alexander Rossi.

Andretti told NBC Sports at Watkins Glen just before the Rossi signing came out that he was optimistic of having all four cars done by Sonoma. “At this moment we’re looking at four cars. We’re close on the one. I feel good that we’ll have something to announce at Sonoma,” he said then.

Rumors percolated over this summer that Veach, who was known for his marketing ability and work ethic to find sponsors in his early years in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, was working on a bigger sponsorship package to bring to an IndyCar team. Reports of his signing then came out on Monday.

Veach returns to Andretti Autosport, a team where he raced in all three rungs of the MRTI ladder, first in USF2000, then Pro Mazda, and then Indy Lights from 2010 through 2014. He won his first three races in Indy Lights with Andretti in 2014, when he finished a career-best third in points. Upon returning to Indy Lights after a year’s hiatus in 2016, Veach won three more races with Belardi Auto Racing in the new Dallara IL-15 Mazda and finished fourth in points.

As noted earlier, this year he made two IndyCar starts, first in an unexpected fill-in role for JR Hildebrand at Ed Carpenter Racing at Barber Motorsports Park and then in this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil with A.J. Foyt Enterprises and in the Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim entry. Veach overachieved in a weekend of steady improvement at Barber, while had to recover from a practice crash in Indianapolis the rest of that month, before retiring with electrical issues.

The team will again run a fifth car at next year’s Indianapolis 500. Michael Andretti had said several times that after giving up his seat for Fernando Alonso at this year’s ‘500 that an extra car would be earmarked for Stefan Wilson. Whether that would be the fifth car or a sixth car, as the sixth car was for Andretti in partnership with Michael Shank Racing, remains to be seen.

As for Veach, he enters into a great situation to make an immediate impression. Without question it’s a big opportunity for him, stepping into one of the established “big three” teams. He will have a lot to prove in a coveted seat, but that’s part of the appeal.

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.