Kyle Larson fastest in final Sprint Cup practice at Michigan; Carl Edwards’ woes continue

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Kyle Larson was the fastest of the 43-driver field in Saturday afternoon’s final NASCAR Sprint Cup practice for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Larson’s fastest Happy Hour lap was 198.424 mph (at 36.286 seconds).

“I feel like we made really big gains in our Target Chevy throughout the weekend,” Larson told FoxSports1. “Yesterday in practice, I didn’t think we were good at all, and the guys did a good job to turn that thing around.

“Now I feel like we can maneuver around the track pretty well and we have some speed. … Hopefully, we should be good tomorrow.”

Jeff Gordon was second-fastest (198.265 mph), followed by pole-sitter Kevin Harvick (198.238), Jimmie Johnson (198.183) and Brian Vickers (197.797).

Sixth- through 10th-fastest were Kasey Kahne (197.509), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (197.374), Kurt Busch (197.368), Kyle Busch (197.336) and Clint Bowyer (197.120).

Of note, there was no Ford drivers among the fastest 10 in the final practice session. Brad Keselowski was the fastest Ford driver with the 14th-best speed.

Austin Dillon was 11th-fastest (197.077), followed by Paul Menard (196.990), Jamie McMurray (196.931), Brad Keselowski (196.823), Ryan Newman (196.743), Justin Allgaier (196.641), Brett Moffitt (196.501), Marcos Ambrose (196.399), AJ Allmendinger (196.362) and Danica Patrick (196.239).

Carl Edwards weekend struggles continued in the final practice, managing to be only 33rd-fastest at 194.663 mph.

“I wouldn’t call that struggling a little bit, we’re in a little bit of trouble,” Edwards said. “The good thing is we’re better than we were and my guys never give up.

“But man, this is tough. We’re off quite a bit and we’re trying to figure out what it is. … This is such a fun racetrack, it means a lot in Ford’s and Roush’s backyard to do well here, so hopefully we can figure it out.”

Late in the session, David Stremme suffered some type of motor issue that produced smoke from his exhaust and sent him directly to the garage for repairs.

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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.