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No lucky 7 in a row for Andretti Autosport in Iowa

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NEWTON, Iowa – Andretti Autosport’s Iowa Speedway hot streak came to an end this weekend, with “six” remaining the team’s magic number.

After six wins in a row on the 0.894-mile bullring, the team could only finish in that number position on Sunday as a best result, with rookie Alexander Rossi in sixth for his second best finish of the season only behind his win at the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Rossi, in the No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda, was the best of Andretti’s four cars throughout the weekend from start to finish – he ended sixth after starting 17th.

“Starting 17th made our life hard. I think we were unlucky in terms of the yellows when they came out because our strength today was in the second half of our tire life,” Rossi explained, post-race. “We had really, really good tire life and everyone else was struggling. We were able to stay out but we were never able to take advantage of that. None-the-less a good result from where we started and we’re looking forward to Toronto.”

Meanwhile teammates Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay had frustrating experiences – the team never seemed to find the right setup on the slightly altered Iowa track, owing to more severe bumps in Turns 3 and 4. Andretti and Hunter-Reay both spun in first practice although Andretti completed an incredible save to not hit anything.

Munoz started 15th and finished 12th; Andretti was 14th after starting 19th while Hunter-Reay had arguably his most diabolical weekend since Detroit 2014, when he crashed on two occasions and also had an electrical failure.

After starting 20th, “RHR” was first out on Sunday with a Honda engine letting go and his dreams of a third win in a row at Iowa literally went up in flames.

“That was the most out-of-shape I think we’ve ever been,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt after the failure.

Munoz and Andretti were blunt and succinct, not mincing words about the struggles being real.

“Man, that was the longest race of my career in IndyCar,” Munoz said. “We struggled a lot for grip – I didn’t have any confidence in the car. We were just chasing the car the whole race, changing and never could get the balance in the car. We have to now think about Toronto. This was a tough race for the whole team.”

Andretti added, “Another disappointing result. I had to come from the back and it was hard to pass. We gave it all we had. We took a risk on strategy, which of course didn’t pay off – so here we are with a 14th-place finish.”

Following this result, Rossi now sits best of the Hondas in points – seventh – while Munoz is eighth, Hunter-Reay 13th and Andretti 16th in the championship standings.

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.