IndyCar

Alexander Rossi to become latest IndyCar driver to tackle Baja 1000

Leave a comment

Being a one-race teammate with Fernando Alonso in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 has apparently inspired IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi in a unique way.

Here’s the explanation:

Alonso not only is a two-time Formula One champion, he also has prestigious wins in the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans on his racing resume.

He may give Indy another run in 2019 in hopes of essentially becoming only the second driver to win motorsports’ “triple crown” (Graham Hill is the only driver to do so to date).

As for Rossi, he won the 2016 Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. While Monaco and Le Mans may one day be in his future, Rossi now wants to add another prestigious win to his own resume.

Rossi, who finished second in the 2018 IndyCar Series standings, will step out of his Honda-powered Andretti Autosport comfort zone next month and into a Honda of another kind: a Honda Unlimited Ridgeline in the SCORE Baja 1000 off-road race in Baja, Mexico.

For the record, if he completes the entire race, Rossi will travel nearly 807 miles — over 300 miles longer than what he drove in his Indy 500 victory.

Rossi will have a great teammate in the Nov. 16-17 race: two-time Baja 1000 class winner Jeff Proctor. The 1000 is considered one of the most trying tests of man and machine.

“It’s just one of those iconic races,” Rossi recently told IndyCar.com. “There’s a Honda connection, so I just figured why not?”

Rossi, 27, has already completed a few days of testing, but will have another week-plus of testing on the full Baja course as the race weekend draws closer.

“You’ll kind of drive your section of the course multiple times for a couple days with your co-driver and navigator, and make close to 800 notes for 200 miles.

Could Rossi be asking tips from former Baja 1000 competitors Sebastien Bourdais, left, and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay? (Photo: IndyCar)

“You’ll have a good idea of where you’re going, then once the race starts, you kind of just go by the seat of your pants a little bit.”

Once the green flag falls to start the race, Rossi will join a select fraternity of current and former IndyCar drivers who’ve battled the treacherous Baja course, including Parnelli Jones, Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan, Buddy Rice, Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Robby Gordon, NBC Sports IndyCar analyst Paul Tracy and Jimmy Vasser.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” Rossi told IndyCar.com. “(It’s) something new, something different. Looking forward to the experience.”

Click here to read the full IndyCar.com story on Rossi’s pending great adventure.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.