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NBCSN’s Bell’s insights on a crazy week of IndyCar news

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NBCSN Verizon IndyCar Series analyst Townsend Bell joined The Marshall Pruett Podcast this week to recap a rather busy week of IndyCar news, funny considering we’re in late October and there’s not any actual racing coming up (testing not included).

With Ed Jones’ appointment at Chip Ganassi Racing, Conor Daly’s getting let go from A.J. Foyt Enterprises and a handful of other nuggets, there was plenty Bell weighed in on in an engaging 90-plus minute conversation.

On Jones, Bell said, “I love that news. Was I surprised? Absolutely… but I was pleasantly surprised. He really did everything right as a rookie with a small resource team. Frankly I can’t think of a mistake Ed Jones made on track.”

How Jones got the opportunity came in large part following the strong speculation that Brendon Hartley was headed for that seat, but has instead been provided a fresh chance in Formula 1 with Scuderia Toro Rosso. Bell, who’s highly regarded for his business acumen, explained this side of the sport.

“Frankly that’s the business side of the sport. I believe in every business that happens every day of the week,” Bell said. “If there was a contract, and if it was signed, there could have been language that gave him an out if a Formula 1 opportunity materialized. And if I was advising a driver like Hartley I would have encouraged and asked for that language, because of that possibility.”

About Daly’s being dropped, Bell made an interesting point and it’s one we’ve made on NBCSports.com before. Daly’s half season of Indy Lights in 2011, when he alternated racing in America and in Europe in GP3, meant he didn’t have a proper oval education in the open-wheel ladder system until he got to IndyCar.

“He didn’t get the oval education that a Spencer Pigot, Ed Jones, Kyle Kaiser, Jack Harvey, etc. did,” Bell explained. “So he was learning ovals for the first time in IndyCar… no different than Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Justin Wilson… it takes a few years! I don’t think we talk enough about how that’s a fact of life. The one driver recently that’s shown up and been sensational on ovals is Fernando Alonso…. So there you go. And he’s a two-time World Champion.”

Bell expressed interest in Daly and RC Enerson slotting into the remaining vacancies still on the grid at Dale Coyne Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing for 2018, “not because they’re American, but I think they’re the two most qualified guys to deliver.”

“RC is a name that unfortunately fell off the scene but he delivered in a big way, much like Ed Jones, and frankly I think (was) a little more impressive with what he did in those three races in 2016. I’d love to see that guy get a shot,” Bell said of Enerson.

The full podcast, some 90 minutes long, is embedded below.

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.