Kurt Busch fastest in Brickyard final practice

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The Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s NASCAR qualifying record could be shattered later this afternoon after Furniture Row Racing’s Kurt Busch topped the charts in this morning’s final practice session with a lap of 188.419 miles per hour in his Chevrolet – more than two mph better than Casey Mears’ record of 186.293 mph, which he set in 2004.

After being caught in a wreck two weeks ago at Loudon, Busch is one of multiple contenders that are currently on the outside looking in as the run to the Chase continues. He sits 14th in the standings, but is only just seven points out of 10th place.

That spot in the standings currently belongs to Hendrick Motorsports’ Kasey Kahne, and it appears he also has a fast ride going into today’s qualifying session at IMS. He was second-quickest in “Happy Hour” with a lap at 188.210 mph.

2000 Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, who led yesterday’s first practice, was third-quickest (187.664), followed by defending Brickyard 400 champ Jimmie Johnson in fourth (187.379) and Ford leader Marcos Ambrose in fifth (187.106). Kyle Busch (187.075) was sixth-quickest this morning to lead the Toyotas.

In all, 14 drivers turned laps in “Happy Hour” that broke Mears’ track record, which means this afternoon should hold a very interesting run for the pole. Qualifying will start at 2:10 pm ET.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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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.