From the ‘Team that Roger Built’ to the ‘House that Ruth Built’ for Josef Newgarden

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With a record 18 Indianapolis 500 victories and a record 16 IndyCar “National Championships” including the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship, Team Penske has often been referred to as the New York Yankees of IndyCar racing.

Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, Team Penske’s latest IndyCar champion got to experience the history and heritage of the most successful professional sports franchise in the world.

Newgarden’s championship week continued with a trip to Yankee Stadium, where he was guest of fellow NTT IndyCar Series team owner George Michael Steinbrenner, IV. The 22-year-old Steinbrenner is the grandson of legendary Yankees owner, the late George Steinbrenner.

Today, the Yankees are co-owned by young Steinbrenner’s Uncle Hal and his father, Hank.

The stop at Yankee Stadium capped Newgarden’s two-day New York media tour.

Newgarden, a first timer to the ballpark, was able to hold the notched bat Babe Ruth used to swat many of his record-setting 60 home runs in 1927. Newgarden also held a uniform Lou Gehrig wore and saw all 27 of the Yankees’ World Series rings and signed baseballs.

Newgarden, who played the sport growing up in Nashville, Tenn., was in awe of the memorabilia, particularly as it related to Derek Jeter, his favorite Yankee.

“It’s very cool to see how they have immortalized the greats,” Newgarden said. “Through a program called ‘Hands on History’ they let people put on white gloves and physically touch these important pieces of baseball history. It reminded me of the (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) Museum with all the history there. It was awesome.”

Team Penske’s excellence has earned the racing operation a legion of fans, and probably an equal number of people who root against the team. That’s the same as the Yankees in Major League Baseball.

“That’s sports, (and) it should divide people,” Newgarden said. “There should be people who love us, and there should be people who hate us, and if (sports) didn’t have that why would it be interesting?”

“You want to see someone win, and you want to see someone (lose).”

Newgarden’s championship is his second in three years, and his four race wins this season gave him 14 for his career. Only 32 drivers in the sport’s history have more of the latter. He also became the 21st American driver with multiple INDYCAR titles.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

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.