Castroneves leads Indy 500 at halfway mark under third round of pit stops

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INDIANAPOLIS – Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud have been the three primary leaders thus far in the 99th Indianapolis 500, as the race reaches its halfway point of 100 laps complete, and 100 to go.

However it was Helio Castroneves who led the race after running a lap later on the third pit stop sequence at the halfway mark.

Thus far the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion has not been as on pace, or close to the lead trio, as expected. The same is true for teammate Will Power.

Following the frantic and chaotic start that saw nearly a half dozen cars taken out of contention, the race settled down for a fair bit as the leaders ran to their first stint.

Dixon, who led the majority of the opening 35 laps, was first to pit from the lead having burned more fuel out front. It’s a bit of a conundrum for Dixon, renowned as a fuel saving master, but following up on others who have struggled to save fuel once in the lead.

Any of Dixon, Pagenaud and Kanaan held the top spot until the halfway mark, before their stops.

Pagenaud’s Team Penske crew got the No. 22 Avaya Chevrolet out ahead of Dixon’s No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on the second round of pit stops. But Kanaan got them both courtesy of a two-in-one pass for the lead into Turn 1 on Lap 73.

At Lap 100, Castroneves led from Pagenaud, Power, Dixon and Kimball.

Some big movers thus far have included Kimball (14th to fifth as of Lap 91), Juan Pablo Montoya (15th to seventh, and particularly impressive after incurring some right rear wheel guard damage early that dropped him to 30th), Graham Rahal (17th to eighth, top Honda) and NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell (23rd to 14th in his only IndyCar start of the year).

Of note, the inside right front tire changer for Bryan Herta Autosport, Eric Wainscott, had both knees evaluated after an incident in pit lane. INDYCAR Race Control announced there would be a post-race review for the incident, involving the team’s rookie driver Gabby Chaves.

Also, the second accident of the race occurred when Bryan Clauson crashed on Lap 64 in the KVSH/Jonathan Byrd’s Racing Chevrolet exiting Turn 4.

Wainscott and Clauson were both checked, cleared and released.

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.