MRTI: Veach, Pigot take critical wins in Milwaukee

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The penultimate weekend for two of the three rungs on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder occurred this weekend at Milwaukee. While one title lead was extended, another was closed up.

INDY LIGHTS

Andretti Autosport teammates Matty Brabham and Zach Veach dominated Sunday’s 100-lapper for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, but the outcome of which of the two would take it was in doubt until a final restart with less than 10 laps to go.

Veach led the opening 39 laps from pole before Brabham made it past on Lap 40, and began to stretch his lead over the next 50-plus laps while Veach struggled with balance. But following Luiz Razia’s crash with eight laps to go, Veach capitalized on the restart with an outside move on Brabham through Turns 1 and 2 with just four to go.  Brabham finished a hard-luck second after one of his best drives of the season.

Veach now sits just seven points behind Gabby Chaves (466-459), who finished third on Sunday and drove well to fight a seriously ill-handling, down on grip car. Jack Harvey also still has a shot going into Sonoma, 23 points behind, in third in the championship. But the Englishman ended fifth on Sunday, behind Scott Anderson, who posted a season-best fourth place for Fan Force United.

PRO MAZDA 

Despite starting fourth, points leader Spencer Pigot made it through to the win in Saturday evening’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race at Milwaukee. Pigot made a move past title rival Scott Hargrove past half-distance in the 90-lap race, and held on despite a late restart. Shelby Blackstock made it up to third after Kyle Kaiser and Neil Alberico collided while battling for the final podium position.

Pigot now leads Hargrove by 18 points – 289-271 – heading to Sonoma next weekend.

Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 all have doubleheader weekends in Sonoma for the season finale.

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.