What to watch for: IndyCar at Long Beach (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra)

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STANDING STARTS RETURN

As mentioned over the off-season, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach had been interested in a standing start when they were introduced to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2013. A year later, they’ll have one – hopefully.

Standing starts were hit or miss last year, with successful ones coming at Toronto Race 2 and Houston Race 1. If it goes off properly today, it’ll be a Oklahoma land rush down into Turn 1, one of the prime passing zones on this 1.9-mile Long Beach circuit.

And it’ll likely be awesome, like Will Power’s rocket start from fourth to first in the 2008 Champ Car finale (skip to 5:40 for the fireworks).

HAIR(PIN)-RAISING EXPERIENCE

Turns 1, 6, and 9 are good places to gain positions, but the right-hand hairpin at Turn 11 remains Long Beach’s signature corner.

Bottlenecks with cars going askew across the entire track are not uncommon here, and as it leads to the long, curving front-stretch on Shoreline Drive, it’s oh-so-important to get this corner right. Poor acceleration out of it leaves you open to a drafting attack if a pursuer is anywhere near your rear wing.

UPSET ALERT: JOSEF NEWGARDEN

We’ve seen the third-year driver for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing shine before on street circuits (remember his late-race fight with Takuma Sato in Sao Paulo last year?). And it appears Newgarden could do it again today. Steady throughout practice save for a Practice 1 run-in with the tire barriers, he made the Firestone Fast Six in yesterday’s qualifying and will start fourth today.

He’s become a fan favorite with his social media savvy and easy-going personality, but is today the day he becomes a Verizon IndyCar Series race winner?

MAKING HISTORY

Today marks the 40th anniversary running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which began as a Formula 5000 race in 1975. Then came Formula One from 1976-1983, CART/Champ Car from 1984 to 2008, and the current Verizon IndyCar Series from 2009 to the present.

Through it all, a galaxy of motorsports stars have been able to win at the Beach. It is the most important race of its kind in North America, and whoever wins this 40th anniversary event is going to make a special kind of history.

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.