NASCAR: Hornish, Justin Marks top Nationwide practice at Mid-Ohio

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A pair of part-timers, Sam Hornish Jr. (pictured) and Justin Marks, led today’s practice sessions for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Hornish, the former Indianapolis 500 champion that’s making his seventh NNS start of the year in the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, led the way in first practice with a lap of 95.245 mph around the tough Mid-Ohio circuit. Regan Smith was second-quickest behind him at 94.609 mph in his No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

Roush Fenway Racing rookie Chris Buescher was third-quickest, followed by fourth-place Alex Tagliani in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford that won this race last year with A.J. Allmendinger. Richard Childress Racing’s Brian Scott completed the Top 5.

But in Practice 2, Marks was able to put down a last-minute lap of 95.187 mph to knock Chris Buescher (95.182) from the top spot. Marks is making his second start of the season for Turner Scott Motorsports after finishing 24th earlier this year at Road America due to an ill-fated fuel gamble.

Hornish’s lap of 94.798 mph in this session was good enough for P3, while Smith fell in behind Hornish again in fourth. Road America winner Brendan Gaughan was fifth.

Nationwide Series points leader Chase Elliott was 11th in Practice 1, and then ninth in Practice 2. Elliott leads Smith by 12 points going into Saturday’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 (2:45 p.m. ET), which will be preceded by qualifying that morning (9:40 a.m. ET).

NASCAR Nationwide Series at Mid-Ohio – Practice 1 Times

NASCAR Nationwide Series at Mid-Ohio – Practice 2 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.