Mixed day at St. Pete for 2012’s IndyCar top five

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Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon opened their 2013 IndyCar seasons with top-five results achieved by different efforts. But the other three drivers from the 2012 series top five – champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, runner-up Will Power and rookie-of-the-year Simon Pagenaud – are already playing catch-up after challenging weekends in St. Petersburg.

The good first: Castroneves could afford to be disappointed with second after making a mistake on the last restart of the race, but still starting his account with a decent result.

“Unfortunately on the restart, it was a long restart, long yellow,” he explained. I don’t think I warmed up the tires enough. I was braking pretty much the same place. But if you’d have asked me on Friday if I would take second place, I would say yes.”

Dixon fought through a broken waste gate and a poor starting position of 20th to secure a fifth place finish for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, top Honda finisher on the day.

“The Target car was generally pretty good,” Dixon said. “We went a little bit off sequence there at the end but what killed us was the left waste gate on the turbo broke, so I had no boost. I was just getting killed on straight line speed and they just all got past me on the final restarts.”

The days were less successful for the other three. Power’s chances ended on a freak accident under yellow when JR Hildebrand contacted him, while Hunter-Reay had a stuck throttle and Pagenaud was one of many with mechanical issues.

“It wasn’t a great day,” said Hunter-Reay. “We couldn’t get our car into first gear on a pit stop for whatever reason. I don’t know if that had anything to do with the stuck throttle that we ended up having, but that’s what sidelined us in the end. I’ve heard some other guys have been having that issue so everyone is scratching their head right now, and trust me, on a street course it’s not the thing you want – it’s pretty scary to have one.”

“It was a bit of a nightmare weekend for us,” added Pagenaud. “We had no good sessions except the warm-up. We broke the exhaust, ran through the power and damaged the engine. We’re not well-placed for Barber. We have to work a bit and score some more points.”

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.