Photo courtesy of IMSA

Simpson, Goikhberg confirmed for return at JDC-Miller

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The top overachieving privateer squad of 2017 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will stay intact for 2018, with JDC-Miller Motorsports again confirming Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg to return for the full season in the team’s No. 85 Oreca 07 Gibson. Chris Miller, as in 2017, will be the team’s third driver in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races with a fourth driver for the Rolex 24 at Daytona (this was Mathias Beche in 2017) to be confirmed later.

Simpson and Goikhberg ended fourth in Prototype class points, which was a mightily impressive haul because they ended behind only the trio of Cadillac DPi-V.R entries and ahead of the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis, which had early season mechanical issues, and the Mazda RT24-Ps, which stopped their 2017 program midseason to focus on 2018 development with an “evo” spec of its car.

Back-to-back runner-up finishes at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park were the main season highlight, although both could have been wins with a bit of luck. Nonetheless, it was a mightily successful first season step up to Prototype for the John Church-led squad, with finishes between second and sixth in all but one of the 10 races.

“I’m excited to be continuing my strong relationship with JDC-Miller Motorsports and sharing the #85 car with Misha and Chris for another year,” Simpson said. “Continuity and chemistry has been key to our strong 2017 season and I relish the added competition that the 2018 season promises. I’m confident we can build on what we have learned and head into the new season with high expectations.”

Goikhberg added, “I’m glad to be back with JDC-Miller for another season and am very curious to see what we can do with a year under our belt. The competition is getting very high and we welcome the challenge. I think we can still improve in all areas as we look to make a more sustained and targeted challenge at the championship and capture that first elusive win. I’m very happy that we have continuity in the driver line-up as well and look forward to co-driving again with two very strong drivers in Stephen and Chris.”

The team has already begun private testing with this crew. As for the team’s planned second car, several candidates are being considered.

Following up this year’s success in a significantly deeper field next year, with at least nine and possibly 10 DPis for the full-season from Cadillac, Nissan, Mazda and Acura, will be a greater challenge – but the continuity within the team, quality of the preparation and BoP to keep LMP2-spec cars in the game should give the fan favorite “JDC Banana Boat” crew a proper chance.

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.