Kasey Kahne hits 203 mph, leads 1st Cup practice at Michigan

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Perhaps feeling good after the announcement of sponsor Farmers Insurance staying on his No. 5 Chevy through 2017, Kasey Kahne threw down a lap of 203.332 miles per hour to lead today’s first Sprint Cup practice session at Michigan International Speedway.

Kahne was one of 21 drivers that broke the 200 mph mark in the opening session. He is looking for his first win of the season this weekend on the two-mile oval.

Chevrolet drivers made up the Top 7 fastest speeds this morning, with Kahne ahead of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, rookie Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, and Jeff Gordon.

Earnhardt, a two-time winner at Michigan and the Sprint Cup Series’ most recent winner at Pocono, topped out at 202.943 mph in his No. 88 National Guard Chevy.

Team Penske driver and Michigan native Brad Keselowski led the Ford camp by posting a lap of 201.647 miles per hour this morning, good for eighth overall.

Defending Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson and Marcos Ambrose were ninth and 10th respectively.

Among the other notables: Ryan Newman completed his eventful morning by posting the 14th-fastest time (200.714 mph); Greg Biffle, who won at Michigan last June, was 22nd (199.989); father-to-be Kyle Larson was 24th (199.900); and IndyCar’s Juan Pablo Montoya was 37th (196.603) as he began his first NASCAR weekend of 2014.

The Cup contingent will now get ready for qualifying later this afternoon at 3:40 p.m. ET.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT MICHIGAN – FRIDAY PRACTICE TIMES

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.