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Dixon dominates in penalty-laden qualifying at Watkins Glen

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Scott Dixon continued his impressive tour de force of Watkins Glen International as he’s now led his fourth straight session, and secured the Verizon P1 Award on Saturday afternoon.

He paced all three practice sessions, and then followed it up in qualifying with a new track record in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to score his second pole position of the season.

His new lap of the 3.37-mile Watkins Glen International was a 1:22.5259 lap, at a 147.008 mph average speed. That will lead the field to green for Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen presented by Hitachi (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Dixon’s pace at the front of the field was about the only thing normal during a penalty-ridden qualifying session, where five drivers were penalized for various infractions.

Both Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates, James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin, incurred penalties for qualifying interference – Hinchcliffe on Will Power in Q1 and Aleshin on Juan Pablo Montoya in Q2 – and it knocked both of them out of advancing into the next session.

Aleshin’s penalty, interestingly, promoted Power into the Firestone Fast Six. It was a surprise that both he and his Verizon IndyCar Series championship sparring partner Simon Pagenaud were both knocked out in Q2, and looked set to start seventh and eighth, respectively. This marks the first time Pagenaud has missed the Fast Six all season.

Others penalized were Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato and Conor Daly. Rahal’s was for interfering with Jack Hawksworth, which actually promoted Hawksworth into the next session, Q2. Sato, meanwhile, spun at Turn 7 – the weekend trouble spot thus far – and lost his two fastest laps. Additionally, Daly received a drive-through penalty for a violation of the pit exit blend line that cost him track time and a possible chance at making it to the second round.

Overall, experience won out within the Firestone Fast Six, though. Dixon beat Power, with Sebastien Bourdais an impressive third for KVSH Racing, Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan completing the rest of the top five.

Max Chilton was sixth, in his first Firestone Fast Six, for his best start yet this year on a road or street course. His previous best was seventh at Road America; his best overall start this year is fourth at Iowa.

Castroneves and Kanaan ran the Fast Six on Firestone’s red alternates but the other four ran on blacks.

Other nuggets of note… Hawksworth ended top Honda in ninth and will start there for the third time this year, Aleshin fell to 10th, RC Enerson was 11th and into Q2 for his best start yet in his second IndyCar start, and Josef Newgarden was 12th in a repaired car.

Marco Andretti was 18th, and his start is his first outside the bottom four on a road or street course since being 14th at St. Petersburg.

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.