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Hulkenberg not surprised by charge to seventh in USGP qualifying

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Nico Hulkenberg says he is not surprised by his charge to seventh place in qualifying for the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas on Saturday, believing it to have been the best result Force India could have scored.

Force India traveled to Austin embroiled in a tight battle with Williams for fourth place in the Formula 1 constructors’ championship, currently enjoying a 10-point advantage with four races remaining.

Hulkenberg featured in the top 10 throughout practice at the Circuit of The Americas, and converted this impressive pace into seventh place on the grid in qualifying.

The German finished clear of Williams drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa in P8 and P9 respectively, but was not surprised by such a strong showing.

“No, this was expected. We always thought the car should perform quite well here,” Hulkenberg told NBCSN after the session.

“Seventh was the maximum we could do. For our own power, we couldn’t be with the top three. But beat Williams by half a second, and that wasn’t really expected. All good.”

With every point proving crucial in the battle with Williams, Hulkenberg was asked whether he would like a lonely race to seventh on Sunday.

“I wouldn’t mind that. A quiet race can be nice,” Hulkenberg said.

“It’s chip away and take the points home. I don’t plan for a messy first lap, but that could happen. I just want a good result.”

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2:30pm ET on Sunday.

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.