Sebastien Bourdais AJ Foyt
IndyCar

AJ Foyt Racing hires Sebastien Bourdais full time for IndyCar in 2021

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Sebastien Bourdais will join AJ Foyt Racing full time next season driving the No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet.

The four-time champion of the Champ Car Series originally was scheduled to share the car with Tony Kanaan and Dalton Kellett this season, racing in the opening three races for Foyt. Bourdais tested the No. 14 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and at a private test at Sebring International Raceway in February.

He has raced full time in the IMSA circuit this season without making any NTT IndyCar Series starts but will drive the final three races in 2020 for Foyt.

“We waited with anticipation for most of 2020 to put together a deal for 2021,” Bourdais, who is racing the 24 Hours of Le Mans in his French hometown this weekend, said in a release. “I’m really happy that I’m running the last three races of the year. It is great for us to get an early start on next year.”

During a Zoom news conference Tuesday, AJ Foyt Racing president Larry Foyt said the team would field two full-time cars next season and possibly three, but Bourdais is its only confirmed driver so far.

Foyt said the team is talking to drivers Dalton Kellett and Charlie Kimball about next year and also didn’t rule out the possibility of anothe race with Tony Kanaan (who has said he wants to run the 2021 Indy 500).

Bourdais has 37 victories across the Champ Car and IndyCar Series, most recently winning the 2018 season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida, with Dale Coyne Racing.

Here’s the release from A.J. Foyt Racing:

INDIANAPOLIS—Four-time champion Sebastien Bourdais has been hired as the sole driver of A.J. Foyt’s No. 14 Indy car in 2021. This year the French native was scheduled to share the driving duties with 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan, who is winding down his career, and rookie Dalton Kellett, a graduate of the Road to Indy ladder series.

Bourdais went from being a part-time driver of Foyt’s No. 14 Chevrolet in 2020 to a full-time driver in 2021 without ever turning a lap in competition in the NTT INDYCAR Series this year. That is about to change.

Originally scheduled to drive for Foyt in the first three races of 2020, Bourdais will now drive in the final three races of the season, beginning with the Harvest Grand Prix doubleheader on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oct. 2-3.

Currently in LeMans, France prepping for the upcoming 24 Hours of LeMans this weekend, Bourdais said, “This is exciting news for all of us. We waited with anticipation for most of 2020 to put together a deal for 2021. I’m really happy that I’m running the last three races of the year — it is great for us to get an early start on next year. 2020 has been a very strange year so far and I can’t wait to finally get behind the wheel of the AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet No. 14.”

Bourdais was scheduled to kick off the 2020 season in March in the No. 14 in St. Petersburg, Fla.  where he lives with his wife Claire and their two children. However, the Covid-19 pandemic pushed that event to October 25, and now becomes the NTT INDYCAR Series’ season finale.

AJ Foyt Racing President Larry Foyt is elated with the signing of Bourdais for next year.

“I’m happy to have this deal done and welcome Sebastien to AJ Foyt Racing,” Foyt said. “The short time we have been able to work together showed a great deal of promise, and it was a shame that his races with us were derailed by the pandemic. I’m glad we were able to add some of these races back on the schedule, as it will undoubtedly help us kickstart his full-time campaign for 2021. His resume speaks for itself, and there is no denying he is a great addition to our program.”

Bourdais tested the No. 14 car with the aeroscreen at the INDYCAR Open Test at the Circuit of the Americas and at a private test at Sebring International Raceway in February.

Asked if the car felt much different with the addition of the aeroscreen, Bourdais replied, “Not very much. This year’s car felt heavier, more inertia and the tires felt different but the setups were very different as well from what I was used to (Bourdais drove Honda-powered cars for Dale Coyne Racing from 2017-19). It’s a whole new learning process. I think there were many differences from the last three or four seasons I had that I think you go into the relationship with a clean slate, no preconceived ideas, try to fit in and bring your experience to the table, but also trying to learn as much as you can from what’s there.”Bourdais was able to test the No. 14 at the COTA open test.

Dalton Kellett was originally scheduled to compete in the Harvest Grand Prix driving the No. 14 but he will now move to the No. 41 K-Line Insulators Chevrolet, the number under which he made his debut in this year’s Indianapolis 500. The team will also field the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet for Charlie Kimball who is driving full-time for Foyt this season.

Team owner A.J. Foyt plans to attend the doubleheader in Indy. He is happy about Bourdais joining the team in a full-time capacity and said, “I think he’ll be an asset to the team by far. We tested with him earlier this year and he knew exactly what he wanted and today I think that’s very important in a racecar driver. I’m looking forward to working with him.”

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.