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Jones wins Indy Lights title on final lap in Monterey

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MONTEREY, Calif. – Ed Jones has won the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship following a final lap pass of Carlin teammate Felix Serralles for fourth place, which was enough to move him ahead of Santiago Urrutia (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian) unofficially by two points (363 to 361).

Jones ran behind Serralles nearly from the drop of the green flag following a ragged start that dropped him from first back to fifth, but once Serralles slowed exiting Turn 2 on the final lap and pulled to driver’s left on the course, Jones made it by for the position – which was enough to secure the $1 million Mazda advancement scholarship to advance into the Verizon IndyCar Series for a guaranteed three-race program.

The championship is the first in Indy Lights for the Dubai-based Brit and the first for Trevor Carlin’s team, both in their second seasons.

Up front, Zach Veach had another dynamic start for Belardi Auto Racing to vault from fourth to first by the start of the first completed lap, and secured his third win of the season.

Urrutia was second, just ahead of Kyle Kaiser, the Saturday winner. Then it was Jones in fourth and Serralles in fifth.

As in Watkins Glen, the start made the difference. Following a waved off first attempt for chaos in the midfield rows, Veach again rocketed from fourth up to first by Turn 4, to secure the lead.

Urrutia had moved into second behind Jones on the opening lap, which was waved off. But by the end of the first completed racing lap, Veach led Urrutia, Kaiser, Serralles and Jones, Jones having run wide through Turn 2 and losing a bunch of ground in the infield section. Behind them, Garett Grist spun at Turn 4 to bring out a full-course caution.

At this stage, Urrutia and Jones would have been tied on 361 points at their current running positions. Jones’ pole point was enough to bring him into a tie, but Urrutia’s wins number (four to two) would be the tiebreaker.

Urrutia was just 0.6 of a second up on Kaiser, who was keen to secure his second win in as many days. Behind them, Jones was trailing Serralles by about 0.8 of a second, but needed the position to move ahead on points. Jones also had to deal with Urrutia’s teammate, Andre Negrao, who ran just behind in sixth.

At Lap 10, Veach led Urrutia by 2.4949 seconds. Kaiser trailed Urruita by just six tenths, but was a further three seconds clear of Serralles, who was about a second ahead of Jones. Negrao fell slightly back from Jones.

Dean Stoneman’s tough weekend continued on Lap 16 when he ran wide off Turn 6 coming up the hill to the Corkscrew, and the Englishman lost two spots to fall from seventh to ninth.

By Lap 25 in the 38-lap race, Urrutia had gapped Kaiser enough to where that wasn’t a realistic scenario to lose that position.

With 10 laps to go on Lap 28, Veach led Urrutia by 5.2079 seconds, with Kaiser third. Serralles’ gap to Jones was 1.471 seconds.

The Serralles to Jones gap closed under a second on Lap 30 and to just 0.58 of a second by Lap 32.

And then the decisive moment happened on the 38th and final lap, when Serralles slowed exiting Turn 2 and Jones made it past on the outside of corner exit, and inside for Turn 3.

That netted Jones fourth place and enough to secure the title.

The race airs on NBCSN on Sept. 23, at 1:30 p.m. ET.

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.