What to watch for: IndyCar at Detroit, Race 1

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BRUTAL BELLE ISLE

Much like Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, Detroit’s Belle Isle Park hides a grueling circuit beneath its beautiful setting. It’s a major shift for these drivers just one week after the Indianapolis 500. Ryan Briscoe’s explanation to the AP sums it up perfectly: “The Indy 500 is not a physical event, but it’s extremely mentally draining. In Detroit, you get beat up with all the bumps because this is one of the more physical circuits we come to and we race it twice in two days.”

INTRIGUE AT THE BACK

Today’s qualifying session saw multiple surprises with guys like Will Power (16th), 2013 Detroit Race 2 winner Simon Pagenaud (17th), and ‘500’ winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (21st) all failing to escape the first round. On a course as challenging as Belle Isle, that may be too big a mountain to climb in today’s 70-lapper. But these are three of the best road/street racers in the IndyCar paddock, and they’re going to give it their best shot.

AN ENCORE FOR MIKE CONWAY?

Last time Conway was in Ed Carpenter’s car was at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and damage sustained during the big start-line crash made for a disappointing result. But now he returns to Belle Isle, where in last year’s Race 1, he flat-out whipped the field in Dale Coyne’s second car. It may be too much to expect another tour de force performance from the Long Beach winner, but he can definitely take another checkered flag in the Motor City from fourth on the grid.

CHEVY VS. HONDA

You always have to bring this battle up any time IndyCar comes to GM’s backyard. And this, too: Honda has won all three Detroit races since this event’s revival in 2012. Last year was particularly grim for the Bowtie, with the Race 1 runner-up from Ryan Hunter-Reay (now a Honda man for Andretti Autosport) keeping Honda from sweeping all of the podium spots that weekend. In the ‘500’, Honda had four cars – all from Andretti – in the Top 6. The Chevy camp will be bent on stopping that momentum cold.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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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.