SPOILER: Firestone Indy Lights at Houston’s Reliant Park

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WARNING: Today’s Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Houston from the MD Anderson Cancer Center Speedway at Reliant Park will be broadcast tomorrow at 4 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network. If you don’t want to know who won the penultimate round of the 2013 Lights championship until tomorrow, we advise that you do not read any further.

American driver Sage Karam took a major step toward claiming the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights championship with a wire-to-wire victory over Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Gabby Chaves this afternoon at Houston’s Reliant Park.

With his third win of 2013 in the bag, Karam now holds a 16-point lead in the standings over Chaves going into the season finale on Oct. 20 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Karam appeared set to face an early challenge from Chaves, but on Lap 10, the Colombian briefly got sideways while going through a corner. He managed to keep his car off the wall but lost valuable momentum, as Karam proceeded to rebuild his lead to about two seconds.

Chaves was able to again cut the lead down a bit before Juan Pablo Garcia went into the Turn 3 tire barriers at Lap 18. That bunched up the field for a restart at Lap 22 but the yellow quickly emerged once more due to problems involving Matthew Di Leo in the Turn 3 runoff (he would eventually get back on his way and continue the race).

Shortly afterwards, Carlos Munoz’s car suffered an apparent mechanical problem under the yellow and came to a stop outside Turn 4. Munoz had entered Houston down just two points to Karam in the championship, but as a result of his DNF, he has fallen to fourth in the title race at 36 points behind Karam.

The extended caution made the 45-lap race a timed event, and Karam quickly extended his lead off the restart at Lap 27. As Karam ticked off the remaining circuits up front, Chaves was left to battle Peter Dempsey for the runner-up spot until the latter driver also came to a stop on track – bringing out the full course yellow on Lap 37 that effectively ended the race.

Also taking a big hit championship-wise was Jack Hawksworth, who suffered on restarts during the race and was then black-flagged at Lap 32 for a variety of issues – including contact with Zach Veach that spun out the Andretti Autosport pilot. Hawksworth is now 35 points down to Karam with one race remaining.

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.