The Kyle show: Busch fastest, Larson next in Cup Happy Hour at ‘Dega

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It was the Kyle and Kyle show in Friday afternoon’s final Sprint Cup practice for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Or maybe we should call it a half-practice, as only 21 drivers took part in Happy Hour.

The speeds were significantly slower than the morning practice – by more than 5 mph – when Clint Bowyer topped the field at 200.385 mph.

MORE: Clint Bowyer leads first Sprint Cup practice at Talladega

As for the afternoon practice, Kyle Busch was the fastest at 195.205 mph, followed by rookie Kyle Larson (195.118 mph).

Two other drivers surpassed 195 mph: Kasey Kahne (195.106) and Jeff Gordon 195.015).

Because of the small field, there were surprising speed performances from several drivers: Casey Mears was fifth-fastest (194.983), as well as Reed Sorenson (194.856), Denny Hamlin (194.393), Joe Nemechek (194.176), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (194.082) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (192.827).

The rest of the field was:

11 Justin Allgaier 192.820 mph

12 Ryan Blaney 192.816

13 Josh Wise 191.804

14 Matt Kenseth 191.562

15 Jimmie Johnson 189.947

16 Mike Wallace 189.936

17 Brad Keselowski 189.684

18 Danica Patrick 189.193

19 Michael Annett 188.159

20 Greg Biffle 187.964

21 Joey Logano 160.510

Logano made only one lap, so his speed is not too concerning.

But Johnson’s speed is. The defending and six-time Sprint Cup champ is in a must-win situation Sunday to advance to the Eliminator Round.

Of course, also in must-win situations are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth.

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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.