IndyCar: Bourdais on top in GP of Indy first practice

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The first 45-minute practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series kicked off, officially, the festivities as IndyCar christens the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for the first Grand Prix of Indianapolis race weekend.

Sebastien Bourdais knocked off one of his two French countrymen in the race – Simon Pagenaud – with the first lap of the weekend in the 1:10 range at 1:10.9335, then lowered the mark even more with a 1:10.5150 on his 20th lap of the session in the No. 11 Mistic Electronic Cigarettes Chevrolet for KVSH Racing.

Old Long Beach sparring partners Pagenaud and Will Power were 1-2 for most of the session, with Pagenaud clocking in his best time of 1:11.0045 in the No. 77 Charter Communications/Oculus Honda for Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports.

But while Pagenaud had the edge, with under two minutes to go, Bourdais went to the top of the time sheets. Barber winner Ryan Hunter-Reay joined him in the 1:10 range, at 1:10.9053.

Pagenaud ended third and late in the session Josef Newgarden (1:11.0188) and Scott Dixon (1:11.0454) jumped into the top five. Mikhail Aleshin, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Briscoe, Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth completed the top 10.

Before Bourdais’ late flier, the top 22 of 25 runners were within 0.8665 of a second, down to Graham Rahal in 22nd. But by the end of the session, only the top 16 were within a second, down to Carlos Huertas in P16 and 0.9075 of a second back.

First-time drivers this year Franck Montagny (21st) and Martin Plowman (22nd) were within 1.1470 and 1.1776 of Bourdais, respectively.

Newgarden lost control in Turn 4 early in the session, and was the first driver to have an unscheduled appointment with the gravel trap on corner exit. He was towed out and brought into the pit lane for the first red flag of the session.

A second red flag, much briefer, flew later in the session for a brief loss of power in race control. Can’t say as I’ve written that one before.

Not many drivers were able to turn laps early in the 45-minute session; within the first 20 minutes, only Bourdais (6 laps), Plowman (5) and Rahal (5) had completed 5 laps or more on the 2.439-mile road course. Bourdais’ 21 led all runners, with Rahal also posting 20 and the rest anywhere from 10 to 18 laps.

The second 45-minute practice runs from 2 to 2:45 p.m. EDT. In the meantime, here’s times from Practice 1, which ran under near perfect conditions of sunny, 75 degrees ambient with a track temperature of 88.

PDF HERE, VISUALS BELOW.

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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.