MRTI: Jam-packed weekend for all three ladder series on tap at Mid-Ohio

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This weekend’s Mazda Road to Indy action at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will prove pivotal for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

In all, there’s a total of seven races for the three series. Championships might not be won but they could well be lost with bad results.

INDY LIGHTS (ENTRY LIST

Gabby Chaves rides into Mid-Ohio riding a wave of momentum following his win at Pocono and runner-up finish to Belardi Auto Racing teammate Alex Baron at Toronto. Chaves won this race last year for his inaugural Indy Lights win, and carries a 21-point lead into the doubleheader weekend over Zach Veach of Andretti Autosport.

Chaves will have a new teammate this weekend, with Starting Grid, Inc.-backed driver Axcil Jefferies of Zimbabwe replacing Baron this weekend. Jefferies made a pair of Indy Lights starts in 2013, including at Mid-Ohio.

Third-placed Jack Harvey of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports remains in title contention, 48 back heading into the weekend, while still seeking his first win. Matthew Brabham and Luiz Razia, Veach and Harvey’s respective teammates, could play spoilers.

PRO MAZDA (ENTRY LIST)

Spencer Pigot and Scott Hargrove spent their off weekend from their main championship splitting the Porsche GT3 Canada wins in Toronto two weeks ago. But now the Pro Mazda title protagonists are set to duke it out in the pair of open-wheel races this weekend. Pigot leads Hargrove by 17 points.

A logjam exists behind them for third, with Neil Alberico, Shelby Blackstock and Kyle Kaiser separated by only eight points. But with Alberico 71 back of Pigot heading into the weekend, it’s doubtful he or any of the remaining drivers in the field will be able to close the gap to the title leaders.

USF2000 (ENTRY LIST)

A tripleheader is on tap for the USF2000 kids this weekend. Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s pair of Jake Eidson and Florian Latorre split the Toronto wins, with Latorre moving into the championship lead on 199 points and Eidson now second on 184. RC Enerson, who has several wins this season, ranks third on 177 with Aaron Telitz and Victor Franzoni – also race winners this year – rounding out the top five.

The USF2000 weekend at Mid-Ohio last year was plagued by one of its races being run nearly entirely behind the safety car due to wet conditions, and its Sunday race featuring a nearly dozen-car pileup at the start. No doubt they’ll seek a better race this time around.

The 11-car Indy Lights races are set for 3:25 p.m. Saturday and 11:45 a.m. Sunday; the 18-car Pro Mazda races are set for 5:35 p.m. Saturday and 10:45 a.m. Sunday; and the 21-car USF2000 races are set for 4 p.m. Friday, 1:05 p.m. Saturday and 9:05 a.m. Sunday.

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.