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Daly’s in-race lead lap defense briefly comes under fire at Barber

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Considering Graham Rahal finished second and Conor Daly in 20th, you wouldn’t think their races really would have intersected Sunday in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Round 4 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

However, they did, because Daly ran the middle portion of the race trying to remain on the lead lap, but was struggling for pace.

The No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda ran ahead of race leader Simon Pagenaud in the No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinishes Team Penske Chevrolet, teammate Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and Rahal, in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

Daly later took to social media to defend himself after the race.

Here’s Daly’s feed in the immediate aftermath of the race:

DalyTweets

Meanwhile, Rahal’s dad and team co-owner Bobby Rahal responded:

BobbyTweets

I spoke to Daly, post-race, and here was his thoughts on the day:

“We shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place, that’s all, we shoot ourselves in the foot,” Daly told NBC Sports. “I don’t know what the heck was going on at the start here (with several car accordion effect accident).

“Absolutely, the time it actually went green, every boxed up and I had to cut left or I would have plowed into the guys in front of me. All of us backed up about half-way past the start zone, so they’ve got to re-think places like this because we saw one start, and we’ve got two cars crashing. And the next start the same thing would have happened.

“That killed us, but we were still in a decent position, and we just lost it in the pits, so it was a shame after that.”

“I couldn’t let anyone by. We had to hope for a yellow. If they were going to pass me, I would have let them by.  I think it’s so hard to pass here anyway that it wasn’t costing the guys behind us anyway. Our car wasn’t that bad.”

Race winner Simon Pagenaud, who was immediately behind Daly for most of the middle stint, defended Daly’s right to remain on the lead lap.

“It’s a judgment call from drivers, but he’s just playing by the rules. That’s his right,” Pagenaud told NBC Sports during the post-race press conference.

“I used to get upset about it. But those are the rules. If there was a yellow, he’d be back with a chance to do better.

“It was frustrating, absolutely. But when that happened, I tried to keep my tires underneath me.

“It’s a shame we don’t have the lucky dog… we could race and there could be more respect.

“He did everything by the rules, and I have nothing to be upset about.”

And as it later turned out, Rahal’s radio comments were meant in jest. Rahal took to Twitter later Sunday to sort it out:

GRtweets

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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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.