Ryan Hunter-Reay disappointed, but relieved after Barber performance

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It’s not often you hear a driver in any racing series say they’re a mixture of disappointed and relieved after racing to their best result of the season.

But that’s the sentiment Ryan Hunter-Reay shared after achieving a fifth-place finish in the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.

“We just don’t have it right now,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN after his best performance since finishing second Sonoma last year.

“That was about as good as we were going to get today. Had to hold off some cars there that didn’t have a problem with fuel, like Graham (Rahal) and Will (Power) was a little better than us on fuel.”

The Andretti Autosport driver compared the final segment of the 90-lap race to being “a lame duck.”

A lame duck was far from what Hunter-Reay experienced the last two years when he claimed wins at the track.  But after a sluggish start to the year, the American needed a boost. Sunday didn’t start that way with RHR rolling his No. 28 DHL Honda off the grid in 18th.

With tires a concern, the No. 28 team took to pit strategy early, pitting on Lap 12.

“We knew what we were going to do early with strategy,” Hunter-Reay said. “Saved a lot of fuel today, that worked out for us.”

After the first round of pit stops had ended about 25 laps in, the 2012 Verizon IndyCar champion was already in the top-10 in seventh place.

Hunter-Reay’s biggest fireworks came in the final segment of the race when racing with Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Sage Karam.

In an echo from the NOLA race two weeks ago, Hunter-Reay was holding Karam off before the rookie passed on his inside coming out of a turn.

Hunter-Reay found himself squeezed off the track and into the dirt before quickly recovering.

“That was interesting wasn’t it?” Hunter-Reay said. “I told him, ‘That was pretty slick, you know.’ … How Race Control didn’t call that, but they called me on it is beyond me, but I’m not even worried about it. We’ll figure it out. We need to make this car goes faster, we need to run up front and we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to do that.”

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.