Allmendinger starts top 10 on open-wheel return (VIDEO)

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AJ Allmendinger achieved his target of advancing into the top 12 and out of his group in the first round of qualifying for IndyCar’s race at Barber Motorsports Park. Although he clocked in 11th in that set of 12, he’ll start 10th with Takuma Sato’s penalty demoting him down the order.

“I wasn’t as strong in the second run as I was in the first,” he said. “I just didn’t feel as good on the second set of tires. We made our first goal of getting out of the first round of qualifying. Making it into the top six was a pretty lofty goal, especially with it being my first time (in this format) and first time on the red (tires). It’s still good to be inside the top 12. I know the IZOD Team Penske car will be good in the race, it’s just a matter of me going with the flow and how I react to everything.”

Allmendinger will have one more IndyCar race on his schedule as earlier Saturday, Penske Racing President Tim Cindric confirmed he’ll race at Long Beach in two weeks.

“It’s the same layout at least,” said Allmendinger, who raced at Long Beach three times in Champ Car. “It’s not an oval (before Indianapolis), but it’s more time in the car with pit stops. It’s exciting; I’ve always missed that race since I left. Being a California native it was always a fun race to go to. Just to have another race under my belt at a place I’ve fairly familiar with I’m looking forward to it.”

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.