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IndyCar: Bobby Unser sees a lot of himself in Will Power

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Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser last climbed into a race car 37 years ago in 1981.

But during last Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park, Unser was kind of  riding along with Will Power, and celebrated Power’s victory even though he was hundreds of miles away in his Albuquerque, New Mexico home.

The 84-year-old Unser felt an affinity with Power because the latter captured his 35th career Indy car win at Gateway, tying Unser for seventh place on the IndyCar all-time wins list.

“I was happy for Will,” Unser said. “He really drove one heck of a race. Will’s fast and one of those drivers who finds a way to win races, he showed that, no question.

“Will’s a total racer and for someone like that to share 35 Indy car wins with me is special. Look, Will won Indianapolis 500 this year, he won the road course at Indy and now on a short oval, I like that – he has confidence and knows he can win anyplace and anytime – like Bobby Unser did!

“He makes good decisions and is for sure fun to watch. Certain drivers are standing out – (Scott) Dixon, (Alexander) Rossi and Will are all super talented, at the top, they are probably the best drivers on the track right now.

“But it’s just not those three, there is a lot of talent on the track and racing in IndyCar this year. Robert Wickens was very fast and talented before his accident at Pocono, he showed me a lot.

“The cars are so equal now that the best drivers are rising to the top – racing is in the driver’s hands – just not the team they race for or the car they are in, because this year the cars are now more equal than ever. Good drivers with talent and skill are winning races. Again I’d like to really, really congratulate Will on his win, he’ll win lots more races – he’s a complete driver!”

Unser also had praise for his former boss, the man he used to drive for, Roger Penske.

“Roger Penske provides his drivers the very best prepared cars, week in and week out, every single race, every single year,” Unser said. “This gives his drivers the best opportunity to win when they arrive at the track.

“Roger doesn’t play favorites, everyone gets the exact same thing. Everything is top of the line. Roger gives you what it takes to win – totally, totally first class 100% of the time. Roger’s 17 Indianapolis 500 wins set the standard for all of racing, all of racing – IndyCar, NASCAR, Formula 1, anything with wheels.

“Indianapolis means so much to Roger – since 1969 his goal has been to win that race every single year, be in Victory Lane and take home a Baby Borg (a miniature version of the Borg Warner Trophy, which is awarded to the Indy 500 winner).

“The team is a about preparation and perfection and that means wins, lots of wins everywhere, including the Indianapolis 500.”

Let’s compare the careers of both Unser and Power and the numerous similarities:

Bobby Unser and Will Power Stats:

* 11 of Bobby’s 35 career wins were with Team Penske, while 32 of Will’s 35 career wins were with Team Penske.

* Bobby had six wins driving car number 12 for Tea Penske. Will has 31 wins driving car number 12 for Team Penske.

* Bobby has two IndyCar National Championships – 1968 driving for Bob Wilke and 1974 driving for Dan Gurney.

* Will has one Indy car National Championship.

Breakdown of Bobby’s IndyCar 500 mile race wins:

* 8 total, 3 with Roger Penske: 4 wins at Ontario (1974, 1976, 1979, 1980, the latter two with Penske). Three wins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – three wins (1968, 1975, 1981, the last one with Penske). Unser won once at Pocono Raceway  (1980) with Penske.

Breakdown of Will’s IndyCar 500-mile race wins

* 4 total, all with Roger Penske. Pocono (two wins (2016 and 2017), one at Texas (2013) and one win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2018).

Most consecutive seasons with one or more wins: 11 consecutive seasons – Bobby Unser 1966 – 1976; 12 consecutive seasons – Will Power 2007 – 2018.

Most seasons with at least one win: 14 seasons – Bobby Unser; 12 seasons – Will Power.

Contributing: Steve Shunck

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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.