RHR, Nick Saban and boxing champ Deontay Wilder: It happened to promo Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (PHOTOS)

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Following the deluge at NOLA Motorsports Park, the defending Indianapolis 500 champion and two-time defending Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner Ryan Hunter-Reay headed from outside New Orleans to Alabama, to promote this year’s race at Barber Motorsports Park outside Birmingham.

Hunter-Reay wasn’t headed for the track though.

It was a trip to Tuscaloosa – Crimson Tide country – where “RHR,” Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and WBC world heavyweight boxing title holder Deontay Wilder (this year’s race grand marshal) all met up to exchange gear and learn more about their various sports.

Via AL.com, the trio exchanged helmets, with an IndyCar helmet going to Saban, and Alabama replica helmets issued for Hunter-Reay and Wilder.

“I’m a Dolphins fan and we liked him when he was there,” Hunter-Reay said of Saban, noting his tenure with the Miami Dolphins. “We hated for him to leave.”

Saban and Wilder both spoke to USA Today’s Jeff Olson. The former noted his desire to one day attend the Indianapolis 500 and Kentucky Derby and said he has “tremendous respect” for the drivers; Hunter-Reay extended an invitation to the first event. Meanwhile Wilder took pics in the IndyCar two-seater as he prepares for the day, and praised driver fitness.

The respective articles from AL.com and USA Today are linked within this sentence; TV times of this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra are linked here.

Here’s a selection of pictures from the day (all photos: Nigel Kinrade/LAT for Honda):

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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.