Whoa! Denny Hamlin just misses 200 mph at Daytona in Sprint Unlimited practice

1 Comment

While Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the star of the first of two practices Friday for Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited, Denny Hamlin didn’t want Junior to hog all the fun and the media spotlight.

Hamlin, fully recovered from last year’s back injury and miserable season, was just a hair shy of cracking 200 mph in Friday’s second Sprint Unlimited practice.

With conditions cooler and motors having worked out the kinks in the early afternoon session, Hamlin’s FedEx Express Toyota carried him around the high banks of the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway at a blistering speed of 199.867 mph.

Hamlin was one of three drivers who were less than one mph shy of breaking past 200 mph. Jamie McMurray had the second-fastest lap at 199.645 mph, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. surprised a few folks with a run of 199.579 mph.

While 18 drivers took part in the early session, only 15 drivers took laps in the late afternoon practice.

Conspicuous by his absence in the second practice was defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who had the slowest speed of all drivers in the early session at 190.359 mph.

An interesting twist in the second session was the performance of Danica Patrick, who although she had just the 12th fastest lap overall (197.105 mph) in the second session, still managed to compile the best 10 consecutive lap speed average of the session as well at 194.328 mph. Patrick won the pole for last year’s Daytona 500 and finished a season-high eighth in that race.

Here’s the top lap speeds for all 15 drivers in Friday’s second and final practice for the Saturday night’s 75-lap Sprint Unlimited, which starts at 8:15 pm ET.

1. Denny Hamlin 199.867 mph

2. Jamie McMurray 199.645

3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 199.579

4. Kyle Busch 198.842

5. Brad Keselowski 198.618

6. Kevin Harvick 198.448

7. Carl Edwards 198.264

8. Marcos Ambrose 198.111

9. Tony Stewart 197.994

10. Kurt Busch 197.854

11. Joey Logano 197.620

12. Danica Patrick 197.105

13. Jeff Gordon 196.786

14. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 195.912

15. Terry Labonte 189.982

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.