Photo courtesy Flying Lizard Motorsports

Flying Lizard, Toyo Tires complete Thunderhill three-peat

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Flying Lizard Motorsports and Toyo Tires remained a force in this year’s NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill. The annual early December event held in Willows, Calif. saw the team and tire manufacturer win its third straight Thunderhill race, with the No. 45 Audi R8 LMS of Darren Law, Tom Haacker, Nate Stacy and Charlie Hayes capturing the overall victory (and in the ES class).

Adding to the spoils was the team’s second car, the No. 74 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport of Johannes van Overbeek, Mike Hedlund, Craig Watkins and Ross Thompson, adding a class victory (in Toyo Tires GT Challenge class).

The No. 45 Audi led early but following an in-race oddity when the pace car broke down, one of RYNO Racing’s Ginetta G57 prototypes moved to the lead. That car later broke down overnight and by 4:45 a.m., the Lizard Audi made up the lost time to overcome the deficit and take the lead back.

Darren Law, Flying Lizard’s program manager who still drives as often as he can, summed up the viewpoint from the Lizard standpoint after another exhausting, grueling but satisfying Thunderhill triumph.

“I really had a great time driving this weekend, the Audi R8 LMS was on rails, not only was the car preparation great but the Toyo Tires were amazing, you could place the car anywhere on track, we were double stinting tires throughout the night and able to keep the same pace as a fresh set, it just made it a lot of fun,” he said.

“None of my co-drivers put a wheel wrong the entire race and our car came through without a single mark on it. I am also really proud of the team and the extra effort we put in together for an entry for the inaugural Toyo GT4 class with the Porsche Cayman. Johannes, Mike, Ross, and Craig drove a flawless race and provided once again a winning effort for this class as well. Thanks to everyone involved!”

“What an amazing weekend,” added Marc Sanzenbacher, senior manager, motorsports, Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. “It was our third consecutive overall race win with Flying Lizard Motorsports in our Audi R8 LMS Ultra and there were Toyo Tires shod vehicles on the top step of four NASA 25 Hour race classes. I think we have proven once again that the Toyo Proxes family of tires is the only choice for those who are serious about winning.”

As they’ve demonstrated rather well over the last two years, Flying Lizard once exercised its social media channels to great effect at Thunderhill to provide enhanced coverage, team radio and constant fan interaction. A recap of its race can be found at its Twitter page for a further look back at how the Lizards tripled up.

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.