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Bourdais leads early on Fast Friday before rain hits Indy

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INDIANAPOLIS – Rain has been predicted for parts if not all of Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and just before 1:45 p.m. on “Fast Friday,” it hit – hard.

This not before 32 of the 33 drivers entered for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil banked a combined 599 laps, and the speeds went up by seven mph compared to the best speeds this week.

The speed increase is by design as the boost is turned up from 1.3 to 1.4 mbar on the turbochargers, which gives the 2.2L V6 twin turbo powerplants produced by Honda and Chevrolet an additional 40 to 50 horsepower.

Sebastien Bourdais uncorked the fastest lap of the month to date in a new engine now powering his No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, at 233.116 mph with a tow. Bourdais has had two engine failures this month, one in the INDYCAR Grand Prix last weekend, and a second yesterday in practice at the north end of the track.

The Frenchman is yet to finish in the top-five in the Indianapolis 500 in six prior starts – his best finish is seventh – and he could use a bounce back Indianapolis 500 after early retirements at Phoenix and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Bourdais was one of 22 drivers who eclipsed 230 mph in a tow. That number drops to just six drivers who went 230-plus without a tow, which Bourdais also led at 231.192 mph.

Honda’s reliability issues persisted as a motor issue occurred for Jack Harvey’s No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport car, and smoke came billowing out the back of his car. That’s the fifth engine issue within the last week in the Honda camp; the manufacturer is diagnosing the cause.

More to follow.

Speeds are below.

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.