Piquet Jr. adds Formula E win to family’s legacy on streets of Long Beach

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Nearly 35 years to the day after his father won the 1980 United States Grand Prix West at Long Beach (March 30) for his first Grand Prix victory, Nelson Piquet Jr. matched his father as a winner on the iconic streets of Long Beach.

Difference is, that was a Formula 1 race won by Nelson and today’s was the Long Beach ePrix, Round 6 of the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship season. Piquet Jr. is also the sixth winner in as many races this season.

Piquet Jr.’s win Saturday in the No. 99 China Racing Spark-Renault SRT_01E came after a dominant performance, only losing the lead in the 39-lap race on the pit stop cycle for a couple laps, where he had several seconds in hand heading into the stop and several more coming out of it.

He took the lead off the line from Daniel Abt, who inherited the pole in the No. 66 Audi Sport ABT entry after Sebastien Buemi lost the pole due to exceeding his available power use in qualifying.

Once Piquet Jr. was through to the lead, Abt ran second ahead of several others – notably teammate Lucas di Grassi, Andretti Autosport’s Jean-Eric Vergne and e.dams Renault’s pair of Nicolas Prost and Sebastien Buemi.

The hometown hopes for Andretti’s Scott Speed ended on Lap 4, when the California native smacked the wall on exit of the Turn 1/2 chicane. Speed ended second in Miami but didn’t follow that up today.

That caused one safety car period, and a second followed several laps later when Charles Pic made a late, low percentage lunge into the hairpin turn (Turn 7) that contacted Jarno Trulli and spun them both around.

Abt was first of the leaders to pit on Lap 22, while the majority of the rest followed on Lap 23. Bruno Senna, Salvador Duran, Loic Duval, Jaime Alguersuari and Pic were last of the leaders to pit on Lap 24.

Piquet Jr. maintained the gap on the pit sequence, with Vergne up to second, Abt in third, di Grassi fourth and Buemi fifth.

Some of the leaders fell out of contention in the late stages. Abt and Prost each earned late-race drive throughs, Abt for over use of power and Prost for contact with Jerome d’Ambrosio. That dropped Prost back to 14th and Abt 15th at the finish.

Piquet Jr. was able to cruise home to the victory by 1.705 seconds over Vergne, who delivered Andretti’s third runner-up finish this season by a third different driver. It also marks the Frenchman’s elusive first podium finish in the series.

Di Grassi made it back to the podium in third, with Buemi fourth after starting 10th due to his grid penalty, and Senna in the top five after maximizing his pit strategy from 12th.

Senna and Prost had one brief dice at Turn 3, which sounded nice to hear – Senna’s uncle Ayrton never raced at Long Beach, while Prost’s father Alain failed to score a point in Long Beach in three starts.

Di Grassi reassumes the points lead with Prost’s penalty and non-points finish, although Piquet Jr. has closed to within 1 point (75-74).

RESULTS: Round 6

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.