McLaren boss Zak Brown. Photo: Getty Images.

McLaren won’t run IndyCar team in 2019, but could still do Indy 500

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In what isn’t a complete surprise, McLaren will not mount a full-time effort in IndyCar in 2019.

After months of speculation, McLaren boss Zak Brown announced Friday that the organization will hold off on entering IndyCar until at least 2020 so that it can continue to devote more time and resources to rebuild its lagging Formula One program.

“We’ve taken the decision to not compete on a full-time basis in 2019,” Brown said, according to ESPN. “We’re simply not ready yet and are focused on Formula One, so we won’t be doing that in 2019.

“We do have the desire, as we’ve mentioned before, in the near future.”

However, Brown – who spoke with reporters Friday at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, site of this Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix – did not rule out the possibility that McLaren could still enter a car in the 2019 Indianapolis 500.

McLaren took part in a joint venture with Andretti Autosport to field Fernando Alonso in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Alonso led 27 of the race’s 200 laps, and appeared to be a strong contender to win until his car suffered engine failure late in the race. Takuma Sato ultimately won the race.

MORE: 2-time F1 champ Fernando Alonso hints Indy 500 return possible

If McLaren does field an entry in the 2019 Indy 500, it likely would be another partnership situation. Speculation has included a partnership between McLaren and Andretti Autosport once again, as well as talk of a deal with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

“As far as the Indy 500 (in 2019) is concerned, it’s something that remains of interest to us,” Brown said. “That’ll be a decision that ultimately we take in the off-season and it’s something Fernando would like to do.”

Alonso has announced that this will be his final season in F1, of which he’s a two-time past champion.

“Right now we’re still focused on Formula One and until we get a little bit of fresh air we’ll remain focused on that,” Brown said.

It’s unclear what Alonso will do for 2019 in terms of open-wheel racing. He tested an Andretti Autosport Indy car for a full day last month at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

Speculation on McLaren’s pullback from racing in IndyCar next season also centers about whether it would be able to get an adequate powerplant to field an entry for all 17 races in 2019.

Honda has balked at the possibility of providing engines to McLaren due to past issues involving the F1 program.

Chevrolet, the only other engine provider in IndyCar, could be a potential supplier, but there does not appear to be a current IndyCar team that would be able to field a car for Alonso.

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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.