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Alonso leads ROP/refresher session as several others debut

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INDIANAPOLIS – Fernando Alonso paced the opening practice session for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil – albeit one that only features a handful of the 33 cars scheduled to compete running.

The two-time Formula 1 World Champion was back out after arriving Sunday night from the Spanish Grand Prix, and did 35 laps in the session with a best speed of 221.634 mph in the No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti entry.

His Spanish countryman Oriol Servia (technically, he’s Catalan) was second in his first IndyCar running since last year’s Indianapolis 500, when he was in Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ third car. Servia, now in the No. 16 Manitowoc Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, clocked a speed of 220.759 mph.

Jones good to go. Photo: IndyCar

Ed Jones was first on the day to complete all three phases of his Rookie Orientation Program. The Dubai-based Brit got through easily and in a total of 48 laps, posted a best speed of 219.288 mph, in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda for Dale Coyne Racing.

Jay Howard and Sebastian Saavedra have completed all phases of their refresher program for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Juncos Racing, respectively.

Juncos Racing has debuted. Photo: IndyCar

Both Saavedra and Spencer Pigot completed laps for Juncos in Ricardo Juncos’ maiden run with his Chevrolet-powered IndyCar on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. Saavedra did the bulk of them with a best lap of 216.598 mph in 22 laps, while Pigot only did an installation lap in his car.

Harvey’s session is underway. Photo: IndyCar

Rookie Jack Harvey completed the first phase of his ROP program despite a clutch issue for his No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda. Further issues have prohibited him from completing phases two and three as yet.

The fourth member of the rookie group, Zach Veach, is yet to get through ROP. The driver of the No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship Chevrolet was late out, barely out before 2 p.m., owing to late completion of the car’s build.

Additional notes from this morning are linked here.

Buddy Lazier’s chassis is here, and was spotted in the garage earlier today. The Lazier Racing Partners team is building up the car and it remains to be seen when it will first hit the track.

Temperatures have increased from 77 ambient and 106 track this morning to 83 and 122, respectively, later on.

Speeds from this first two-hour session are below, with all cars now available to go on track until 6 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.