Ganassi pair leads Wednesday Sonoma IndyCar test

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IndyCar teams completed more than 1,000 laps in five hours of testing on Wednesday at Sonoma ahead of this Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (4 p.m. EST, NBCSN). Drivers from the “big three” teams of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske and Andretti Autosport locked out the top seven as teams worked to find grip and consistency at the 1.99-mile Sonoma Raceway.

Dario Franchitti, winless in 2013, led from Scott Dixon in the pair of Target Hondas. Interestingly this is only the fifth weekend of 13 thus far in 2013 where Franchitti has had Target on his car (St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Indianapolis, Toronto). Franchitti’s best lap of 38 turned was 1:18.2945, just ahead of Dixon’s 1:18.3694.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti), Will Power, Helio Castroneves (both Penske), James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti (Andretti) locked out the top seven ahead of the Dragon Racing Sebastie(a)ns, Bourdais and Saavedra, and Justin Wilson.

Hinchcliffe, Bourdais, Ryan Briscoe (Panther Racing), and series debutante Lucas Luhr (RW/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing) set their fastest times in the morning two-hour session, with the remaining 21 clocking in their best in the afternoon. JR Hildebrand was 18th on his first day for Barracuda Racing, while James Davison’s first day in an IndyCar at Sonoma ended 23rd for Dale Coyne.

Official practice begins on Friday.

1. Dario Franchitti, 1:18.2945, 38
2. Scott Dixon, 1:18.3694, 46
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 1:18.4707, 37
4. Will Power, 1:18.5082, 45
5. Helio Castroneves, 1:18.8965, 48
6. James Hinchcliffe, 1:18.9329, 43*
7. Marco Andretti, 1:18.9912, 35
8. Sebastien Bourdais, 1:19.1274, 34*
9. Sebastian Saavedra, 1:19.2560, 35
10. Justin Wilson, 1:19.2731, 43
11. Simona de Silvestro, 1:19.3386, 39
12. Ryan Briscoe, 1:19.3941, 38*
13. Charlie Kimball, 1:19.4095, 51
14. E.J. Viso, 1:19.4495, 28
15. Josef Newgarden, 1:19.4671, 38
16. Tony Kanaan, 1:19.5319, 31
17. James Jakes, 1:19.5426, 44
18. JR Hildebrand, 1:19.6668, 51
19. Graham Rahal, 1:19.7002, 58
20. Simon Pagenaud, 1:19.7100, 57
21. Tristan Vautier, 1:19.9103, 44
22. Takuma Sato, 1:19.9302, 36
23. James Davison, 1:20.1534, 50
24. Ed Carpenter, 1:20.2236, 45
25. Lucas Luhr, 1:20.2262, 44*

*Set fastest time in Practice 1 instead of Practice 2

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.