St. Petersburg notes: Alberico, Eidson, Beretta, Jenner score Sunday wins

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ST. PETERSBURG – The weekend of racing on the streets of St. Petersburg continued earlier Sunday, with five preliminary races before Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series season opener.

Ed Jones doubled up in Indy Lights, while quick recaps of Pro Mazda, USF2000, Pirelli World Challenge and Stadium Super Trucks are below (Saturday recaps linked here):

MAZDA ROAD TO INDY (PRO MAZDA, USF2000)

After banking his first career win on Saturday, Neil Alberico repeated the feat on Sunday for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. Alberico turned in a second successive dominant drive, which put the cherry on top of a weekend that was lat in even materializing.

“We didn’t get much testing in the offseason, since the deal came together at the last minute,” said the Rising Star Racing-backed driver. “We were a little behind the eight-ball, since the other drivers had more time behind the wheel and more momentum. For me, just to be on the grid to start the season was going to be great. So to have this kind of result for everyone who has supported me was incredible.”

Jose Gutierrez was second for Juncos Racing, while Alberico’s Cape teammate Daniel Burkett scored a long overdue first podium in the Mazda Road to Indy with third.

“Dude it’s been a while,” Burkett exhaled to MotorSportsTalk. “I had a few good runs at Mid-O in USF. I thought I could get it at Sonoma. To be on the podium with my teammate, is surreal. (This car) is right in the middle (of USF2000 and Atlantic, which he raced in 2014), which is just what we were going for.”

The second Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda race of the weekend was much the same as Saturday’s, with Jake Eidson (Pabst Racing) completing a pole-to-win, flag-to-flag sweep of the day. As they were on Saturday, two more Cape drivers – Aaron Telitz and Nico Jamin – followed Eidson home.

“You talk about having weekends like this, but to actually have one is definitely easier said than done,” Eidson said. “Everyone at Pabst Racing has worked so hard, especially since Winterfest. We weren’t sure what kind of results we were going to have – obviously we were aiming for the win – but to actually execute it is a relief.”

PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE

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Beretta wins PWC. Photo: Pirelli World Challenge

Like Saturday’s Round 3, Round 4 for the Pirelli World Challenge GT/GTA/GT Cup presented by MOMO classes was marred by extended yellow-flag periods. Sunday’s occurred as a spin by Dan Knox’s Viper forced Tim Pappas to lock the brakes of his Mercedes and avoid hitting the spun car at the exit of Turn 2. The problem occurred when three GT Cup cars barreled into the accident scene and caused further damage, blocking the track and putting the race under yellow for more than half an hour of the 50-minute race.

Olivier Beretta, who had made a dynamic start in his Ferrari, survived the remaining green flag running en route to his second win of the season, winning from Nick Catsburg (Lamborghini) and Kevin Estre (McLaren). Ryan Dalziel (Porsche) finished fourth, in his first non-podium result of the season.

STADIUM SUPER TRUCKS

Sometimes pictures do a better job of capturing a weekend than words do, so here’s some from SST on Sunday, where Burt Jenner won.

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.