Power sets the pace in Sonoma’s Friday marathon session

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SONOMA, Calif. – Regardless of whether you called it a promoter test session or the first official practice – both were overheard on Friday at Sonoma Raceway – the driver who wears No. 1 on his car ended the day No. 1 on the timesheets.

Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power, who still has a mathematical if remote shot to defend his title this weekend, set the fastest time in the three and a half hour marathon session at 1:17.4858 around the 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway circuit in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti completed the top five, and Simon Pagenaud in six made it the top six in the 1:17 bracket.

Points leader Juan Pablo Montoya clocked in ninth, 0.6043 of a second behind Power.

Temperatures cooled substantially from 94 degrees ambient and 129 on track to start the session, down to 86 ambient and 111 by the end of it. Notably, the tires fell off over the course of the day.

The only red flag, for three minutes and 32 seconds, occurred almost immediately after the green flag when Oriol Servia stopped on course at Turn 2 in the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda. Servia reversed course and retreated back to the pit lane. The Spaniard ended the day 25th and last at 1:19.6981.

Otherwise there were 984 laps completed in total in the session.

Times are below:

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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.