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“Hinch” on top following thrilling final hour of Indy day 1 qualifying

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INDIANAPOLIS – James Hinchcliffe has topped the timesheets following an electric final hour of first day qualifying for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Hinchcliffe put together a barnburner of a run in cooler conditions, following some changes from the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda team to put the car in a better position after ending 11th after the first run.

There were only five drivers who averaged over 230 mph in the first run but following the last hour – which was extended from 6 to 7 p.m. ET and local time following earlier delays for weather and weepers – but by the end of the day there were 11.

Behind Hinchcliffe, the others who advanced into Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout include Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Townsend Bell, Josef Newgarden, Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Munoz and Simon Pagenaud.

Bell led after the first round of runs was complete.

Aleshin’s run was the ultimate in cutting it close, making it out onto the circuit merely one second before the gun went off to run the final attempt of the day.

In doing so, he bumped Alexander Rossi out of the Fast Nine, which was an unfortunate break for the American rookie who has been strong all week.

Marco Andretti was also unlucky to come up short, while Juan Pablo Montoya won’t be in the Fast Nine nor will defending polesitter Scott Dixon.

Montoya and Dixon were 12th and 13th today.

INDIANAPOLIS – Results of qualifying Saturday for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with Rank, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 02:35.8803 (230.946)
2. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 02:35.9755 (230.805)
3. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:36.0225 (230.736)
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 02:36.1822 (230.500)
5. (29) Townsend Bell, Honda, 02:36.2147 (230.452)
6. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:36.3658 (230.229)
7. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 02:36.3798 (230.209)
8. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 02:36.4042 (230.173)
9. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 02:36.4522 (230.102)
10. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 02:36.4893 (230.048)
11. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:36.4966 (230.037)
12. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 02:36.6956 (229.745)
13. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 02:36.8651 (229.497)
14. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:36.9111 (229.429)
15. (6) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 02:37.1538 (229.075)
16. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:37.8281 (228.096)
17. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 02:37.9902 (227.862)
18. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 02:38.0191 (227.821)
19. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 02:38.1171 (227.679)
20. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 02:38.2819 (227.442)
21. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 02:38.2853 (227.437)
22. (88) Bryan Clauson, Honda, 02:38.5136 (227.110)
23. (16) Spencer Pigot, Honda, 02:38.5202 (227.100)
24. (77) Oriol Servia, Honda, 02:38.6649 (226.893)
25. (42) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 02:38.9057 (226.549)
26. (61) Matt Brabham, Chevrolet, 02:39.0178 (226.390)
27. (25) Stefan Wilson, Chevrolet, 02:39.6031 (225.560)
28. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 02:39.7248 (225.388)
29. (35) Alex Tagliani, Honda, 02:40.3515 (224.507)
30. (4) Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 02:40.4702 (224.341)
31. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, no time (no speed)
32. (19) Gabby Chaves, Honda, no time (no speed)
33. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, no time (no speed)

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.