Dixon’s nightmare Long Beach weekend ends just outside top 10

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All things considered, the Long Beach weekend for Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon could have been worse. But not much worse.

The New Zealander got off to a bad start with an accident in Friday’s second practice session at Turn 9, which damaged the left rear wheel guard and suspension.

Then in his round of qualifying, he spun at Turn 1, which cost him his two fastest laps and dropped him to the back of the grid. He lined up 26th in the 27-car field.

His Sunday wasn’t smooth either, because contact from Tristan Vautier on the first lap gave Dixon a flat tire and sent him to the pits.

Without ever really figuring into the equation on Sunday, Dixon at least managed to stay out of trouble and finish just behind points leader Helio Castroneves. Castroneves was 10th, Dixon 11th on the day. He is third in the championship, 10 points behind Castroneves. It was an exercise in damage control.

“Unfortunately it was just another day in a bad weekend for us here,” said Dixon. “We were taken out by (Tristan) Vautier on Lap 1 which resulted in a flat tire for us. We had to come in for a front wing as well when we pit, and lost a lap. So we missed out on the strategy that got the other guys around us into the top five.

“I think we had some damage as a result of the accident and we did the best we could with what we had. We also had some issues with our top gear limit and it held us back a bit in the kink from really making a run at anybody.”

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.