Trouble at the Beach for Andretti Autosport

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Andretti Autosport’s bid to claim the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was severely impacted by a crash that came just after a restart on Lap 35 of today’s event.

Three of the four Andretti drivers were involved in the incident, which began when James Hinchcliffe (pictured) attempted to pass Tony Kanaan on the inside of Turn 1. The pass went awry when Hinchcliffe hit the back of Kanaan instead, causing him to go into the inside wall and then ricochet into teammate E.J. Viso before hitting the Turn 1 tire barriers. Viso kept going, but Hinchcliffe could not and upon returning to pit road, “The Mayor” quickly rode off on his scooter with his helmet still on.

“I didn’t get the best restart and Tony had a smokin’ one and I was trying to keep, I think it was [Simon] Pagenaud, behind me on the inside as we got down to Turn 1,” said Hinchcliffe, who finished 26th. “…I don’t know if Tony was trying to do a last minute pass or if he was getting squeezed by someone else, but he moved in the brake zone and I just had nowhere to go and day done.”

In addition, Ryan Hunter-Reay also sustained damage, which forced him to the pits to receive a new front wing. Then on Lap 49, his day ended when he went into Turn 8 too hot while trying to pass Ana Beatriz and slammed into the tires there (he was credited with 24th place).

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Viso soldiered on until he parked his car with 10 laps to go, settling for 22nd place.

Marco Andretti kept the day from turning into a total bust for the group by rising from 25th starting position to seventh at the checkered flag — another sure sign of progress for him on street circuits, which were especially rough on the third-generation driver last season.

“Going into this, I knew that this would be about the best we would finish,” Andretti said. “I am definitely pleased with how we climbed our way through the field and how we stayed consistent throughout the day. We knew that if we just stayed in the race and didn’t make any mistakes, we would be good. I had some front wing damage and a lot of understeer the whole race.”

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.