Sage Karam focusing on Indy Lights title after first win

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With his first Firestone Indy Lights victory out of the way, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Sage Karam is now setting his sights on the series championship as the scene shifts to the 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway for tonight’s Sukup 100.

“The first one’s always the toughest,” said Karam, who triumphed last weekend at the Milwaukee Mile. “To get that first one, it almost lifts a thousand pounds off your shoulders. Definitely feeling good and definitely having some good momentum going into Iowa with two poles in a row and a win – definitely good feelings. But we have to put that behind us and just focus on Iowa now. It’s in the past; just hopefully, we can carry that momentum.”

Karam sits 18 points behind Lights points leader Carlos Munoz going into Iowa, the third in a stretch of four consecutive oval races for the series. The American has had great success at the track while progressing through the Mazda Road to Indy, as he won there in USF2000 back in 2010 and then collected back-to-back Pro Mazda victories in 2011 and 2012.

Altogether, he’s very confident of success on the speedways – which, in his eyes, may be the determining factor in who walks away with the Lights title this season.

“I think what’s going to win the championship for us this year is good results on the ovals,” he said. “We got the win at Milwaukee. That was huge for us. I think Iowa can be another good one. We won there the last three years.  Hopefully, we can make it a four-peat. [I’m] definitely comfortable when it comes to the ovals. I love them.”

As a result, good results at this race and the next one at the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway will be critical to his run toward a title, which he says has to begin immediately.

“I think we were 29 points [behind] going into Milwaukee, now we’re only 18 – [we’ve] definitely made some progress,” said Karam. “We have to start getting some wins here and keep chipping away at [Munoz]. I’d like to go into Pocono almost tied with him. I think that would be a good goal, hopefully come out of Pocono in the lead.”

NBC Sports Network will broadcast tonight’s Lights race (Green Flag – 8:50 p.m. ET) on June 28 at 11 p.m. ET.

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.