Bowyer wins Sprint Showdown All-Star preliminary; Allmendinger, Wise also advance

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It may not be a points race win, but for Clint Bowyer, a win is a win after a year-long drought since his last regular season triumph in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Bowyer took the lead twice in Friday night’s Sprint Showdown, once from AJ Allmendinger on Lap 19 and again past Allmendinger and Austin Dillon on Lap 24 to take the overall lead after an intermission between the two 20-lap segments.

At that intermission, Bowyer opted to take four tires while some of the other cars ahead of him only took two. Once he got into the lead, he stretched his lead by more than two seconds to take the win and advance into Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race.

Allmendinger wasn’t challenged for second and will also advance.

Casey Mears finished third ahead of Richmond sparring partner Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola. Polesitter Austin Dillon finished eighth.

Meanwhile on the strength of the Dogecoin-supported effort, Josh Wise won the Fan Vote and from 18th, will advance in as well.

At the halfway mark, Bowyer led Allmendinger as well. Bowyer took the lead from Allmendinger with an inside move of Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 19. Polesitter Dillon fell to third with Paul Menard fourth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The rest of the top 10 was Mears, Ambrose, Kyle Larson, Danica Patrick and Almirola.

The “holy cow!” moment of the race occurred in the early laps when Stenhouse Jr. contacted  Ambrose in Turns 1 and 2. Ambrose slid his car through the turns, and while putting up a smoke show, managed to save the car without spinning or contacting anyone else. Ambrose made it back to seventh by the end of the first 20-lap segment.

At the intermission, most of the field pitted with Dillon emerging at the head of those coming in. He, Menard, Allmendinger and Patrick took two tires with everyone from there on back taking four.

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.