Justin Wilson gives Honda its best Indy 500 starting position in Andretti oval debut

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The starting grid for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 has been set, and only two Honda-powered cars can be found be in the top 10.

Andretti Autosport’s Justin Wilson and Marco Andretti will lead the charge for Honda on Sunday after qualifying sixth and eighth, respectively.

With a four-lap average of 225.279 mph, Wilson will start in the second row with Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan.

“I was pushing really hard and it felt pretty good,” Wilson said in a release. “It was a little bit tense the last couple of days, but it’s always nice to get out and run on your own with no one else on track, there is always more grip.”

Making the day even better for Wilson, who joined Andretti Autosport just for the Month of May, the sixth-place start is the England native’s best Indy 500 start in eight attempts. Before Sunday, Wilson’s best start in the “500” was 11th in 2010.

“I just have to thank everyone there who has worked so hard the last few months to put this deal together,” Wilson said. “It was a difficult decision that was made for all the teams and when something like that happens you have to react.”

Wilson’s No. 25 Honda was the fastest of the 17 that will look to win the 500 next Sunday.

“I also want to thank everyone a Honda for letting me have the opportunity to be here,” Wilson said. “I’m hoping today’s qualifying run is a good omen going into next weekend.”

Wilson probably shouldn’t consider starting positions as omens. When he qualified 11th in 2010, he finished seventh, just as he did two years later after starting 21st.

In 2013 and 2014, Wilson started 14th. The first ended in a career best 5th-place finish, while the 2014 effort ended with Wilson in 22nd, two laps down.

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.