Indy Lights: Pigot powers to pole in Barber

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It’s a big weekend for the Mazda Road to Indy this weekend, with each of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series having two races.

Indy Lights qualifying occurred today; the series’ recap is below:

After 40 minutes of almost constant shuffling of positions at the top of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires pack, Spencer Pigot and Juncos Racing claimed the pole position for the first of two races that will comprise this weekend’s Legacy Indy Lights 100 at Barber Motorsports Park.

The honor came as some kind of redemption for Pigot, who won last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, along with a MAZDASPEED scholarship to graduate into Indy Lights, and seemed to have the pole within his grasp one week ago on the streets of Long Beach, only to be edged in the dying moments by Jack Harvey.

This time his team made sure that Pigot ventured out onto the challenging and undulating 2.3-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park ahead of his main rival, and Pigot responded with a lap at 1:12.3865. Pigot’s effort showed the effectiveness of the new Mazda MZR-R-powered Dallara IL-15 by circulating a full 1.5 seconds inside the previous Indy Lights lap record.

Harvey, driving for seven-time Indy Lights championship-winning team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian, also improved his time in the closing minutes but ended up 0.2505 seconds shy in second place. Championship leader Ed Jones (Carlin) will share Row Two of the grid with Pigot’s teammate, Kyle Kaiser, followed by Schmidt Peterson’s RC Enerson, who led the way for a healthy portion of another thrilling 40-minute session, and the second Carlin Dallara-Mazda of ex-Formula 1 racer Max Chilton.

The first of two Indy Lights Legacy 100 races this weekend will start tomorrow afternoon at 2:50 p.m., and the one-hour Race Two “feature” event on Sunday, April 26, at 12:10 p.m., immediately before the Verizon IndyCar Series headline event. All times are local. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available on the new Mazda Road to Indy App with live streaming at racecontrol.indycar.com.

Spencer Pigot #12 Mazda/Doug Mockett & Company/Rising Star Racing/The Stutz/BAD/OMP-Juncos Racing): “My team really wanted me to get out in front of Jack. We didn’t want anyone in front of us. We wanted clean air because that’s where we get the optimum downforce. The guys worked really hard today in the changing conditions. There wasn’t much rubber on the track for our first practice this morning, then in the afternoon it got quite hot, which made the track much greasier and changed the balance of the car. It cooled down again for qualifying, so it was a real mix of conditions and setup changes. It was a lot of work throughout qualifying to make that last run as good as it could be. The plan tomorrow will be to stay in front of Jack. This is not an easy place to pass, but you can get around on the outside in Turn One so I have to try to stay ahead of him.”

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.