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MRTI: Jones, O’Ward, Martin score Friday Indy GP wins

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INDIANPOLIS – Fuller reports on the Mazda Road to Indy weekend at the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis will follow next week, but the first three of six races are in the books on Friday.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires was the barnburner of the day with Ed Jones scoring a dramatic win in Round 6 of the season from pole, and becoming the series’ first repeat winner in the process.

Jones captured the win following a chaotic, bizarre Lap 27 restart that saw the lead change hands three times. Dean Stoneman and Santiago Urrutia also had a sniff of the top spot but Stoneman and Urrutia ran wide at Turn 7, which opened the door for Jones to get back by in his Carlin entry. Stoneman had made the move to Jones’ inside at Turn 1 to start the lap and assume the lead.

There was also a mess of moves behind them, ultimately ending with Belardi Auto Racing teammates Felix Rosenqvist and Zach Veach finishing fourth and fifth.

Less eventful were the opening rounds of the weekend for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, also won by polesitters Pato O’Ward and Anthony Martin respectively.

O’Ward controlled the Pro Mazda race, a caution-free 40-minute affair, over Juncos Racing’s Will Owen and Jake Parsons. A first lap off-course excursion helped relegate O’Ward’s Team Pelfrey teammate Aaron Telitz to seventh. O’Ward meanwhile has his fourth win in five races to open the year.

In USF2000, Martin becomes the fourth winner in five races joining Jordan Lloyd, Yufeng Luo and Parker Thompson. The Australian driver for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing inherited the pole following an earlier disqualification for Luke Gabin of JAY Motorsports, after Gabin blew the checkered flag in qualifying.

Martin then held off Thompson for the rest of the race, with Victor Franzoni of ArmsUp Motorsports completing the podium.

Second races for each of the three will follow on Saturday.

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.