INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski

Addition of Herta will round out Andretti Autosport’s 2020 NTT IndyCar Series plans

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Team owner Michael Andretti is confident he will complete his plans for a five-car NTT IndyCar Series team for 2020 before the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca on September 22.

The fifth entry will likely include Colton Herta moving over to the big team, while continuing its relationship with team co-owner George Michael Steinbrenner, IV. This year, the 19-year-old Herta and 22-year-old Steinbrenner are members of Harding Steinbrenner Racing with Andretti Technologies proving engineering support.

By moving Herta over to Andretti Autosport, it will stabilize the shaky financial situation Harding Steinbrenner has had to deal with this season. Because of a late start with sponsorship, including one potential sponsor that didn’t come through, team owner Mike Harding has had some financial issues to contend with in 2019.

“If we can pull it off, the plan is to bring Colton over to our team,” Andretti told NBC sports.com Friday morning at Portland International Raceway. “We want to stay with the Steinbrenners no matter what we do.

“I hope to have all of this completed by Laguna Seca.”

Watch Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland on NBC Sports.

Herta has been a major contender in nearly every race this season. He became IndyCar’s youngest ever winner when he won the March 24 INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of the Americas (COTA), just 10 days short of his 19thbirthday.

“When you jell so well with a team like this, it makes it fun to go racing,” Herta said.

 

Herta enters Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland 14thin the standings but has run near the front in nearly every race this season. He led 10 laps in last Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

“We’re getting close and hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we’ll be able to announce it,” Andretti said. “We are working on five cars; it’s not definite yet.

“It’s a ‘possibility’ we will also work a satellite team. That’s a possibility.”

Andretti also admitted to NBC Sports.com, that a satellite alignment with Meyer Shank Racing is another “possibility” and one where the two sides have discussed it.

He also said he is impressed with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie driver Marcus Ericsson of Sweden.

“I rate Ericsson,” Andretti admitted. “I think he is actually not bad. In Formula One, he was with a bad team. He might race in Formula One this weekend (for Alfa Romeo at Spa in Belgium) and that would be interesting to see how he would do.

“I would like to still see him in the series.”

Moving up from a four-car full-time team to five cars, Andretti said, “We’ve got that handled.

“Again, people think I’m spreading myself too thin. I’m adding more infrastructure, that allows us to do more and that makes us stronger,” he continued. “If we can’t do it that way, we won’t do it.”

At the start of the 2015 season, Andretti Autosport was struggling with two full-time teams, a third car that was teetering on the edge and a fourth car that ran a very limited schedule with the late Justin Wilson as the driver.

“It was tough times, we made it through it, and it made us stronger,” Andretti said. “A couple of our sponsors didn’t pay from the year before and I was in deep stuff. A lot of that has to do with the infrastructure we’ve put in along with a great bunch of people.”

Young Steinbrenner, whose father Hank is Vice-Chairman of the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball, admitted to NBC Sports.com that it is “very likely” he will join forces with Andretti Autosport next season.

“Everything is falling into place, but sometimes a block will fall over and things get complicated,” Steinbrenner told NBC Sports.com. “Hopefully, we can get something announced by the end of the season. There is talk of being the fifth car on the big team (Andretti Autosport).

“If it were to be a fifth Andretti car, the pieces are already in place with this team.”

When asked if Mike Harding would remain part of it, Steinbrenner said, “Talk of that is ongoing.

“Personally, I’ve always felt comfortable with the relationships I’ve had to make in the last three years. Remaining with Honda is one of the priorities. It’s a business, but it’s a serious goal of mine to stay with Honda.”

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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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.