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IndyCar’s top seven in points roll off in top seven at Mid-Ohio

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Providing nothing completely random happens in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 (3 p.m. ET, CNBC) from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the top seven in the Verizon IndyCar Series’ championship will be dicing among themselves for the win from the top seven spots on the grid.

In points, the order is Scott Dixon on 423, then Helio Castroneves on 420, Simon Pagenaud on 404, Josef Newgarden on 400, Will Power and Graham Rahal both on 359, then Takuma Sato on 351.

With five races remaining and the last race of the season at Sonoma a double points race, there’s still a maximum 320 points on offer the rest of the way – so at 72 points separating the top seven, that’s a realistic situation where they could all be in the title frame these final five races.

Fittingly, they start in the top seven for Sunday’s race at Mid-Ohio, but not in points order.

Power rolls off from his 49th career pole, while Newgarden has his first front row start not just of the season, but also with Team Penske.

Sato and Rahal turn in career-best Mid-Ohio starts from third and fourth, while Castroneves is fifth and Dixon sixth. Pagenaud was the only one of the top seven in points to miss the Firestone Fast Six, but from seventh, will start from the same position Newgarden has won twice this year at Barber and Toronto.

Quotes from six of the top seven drivers about their respective title situations are below, after they made the Firestone Fast Six:

Dixon: “I think you try to get as many points as you can during the season. We haven’t done a very good job of that with many tracks. I think we wish we had little more of a points cushion. Not really thinking about points right now. We’re in a good spot. The only time that leading the championship really counts is at the end of the year. We’ll see how we get through these next four races and see how Sonoma plays out.”

Newgarden: “I think I’m not thinking about what the gap is to Dixon. I think I’m more thinking about how can we have a consistent day. Ultimately that’s going to be the most important thing, is having a clean day with no incidences. Not necessarily points, but making sure we have a top five, hopefully a podium. If you’re really lucky, then you get a win. That’s all you have to work on. Generally the points take care of themselves as the year goes on.”

Sato: “Obviously we love to win as much as everyone does. Third place means a lot of opportunity. It’s not necessarily to win the race. But I think certainly aiming for the winning. But I think if we can get a podium finish tomorrow, that would be super result for the team. We do the best we can. We have to.”

Rahal: “We’ve got to go win this thing. It’s as simple as that. We’re going to try the best that we can. Hopefully the two of us can get through clean and go racing, all of us can, and we’ll go from there. For us, the only way we’re going to catch them, obviously the last race is double points, but the only way we’re going to catch Dix and these two over here, same for Will, we got to win races. I mean, that’s what it comes down to, so… Hopefully we’ll go out there tomorrow and have a strong one.”

Power: “Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, as a team, yes. But individually, a lot of competition in the team. Very good problem to have.”

Castroneves: “We’re battling for the championship ourselves. You can use a little bit your teammates in case something’s not going well. You can still take advantage of that and collect a bit more points.

“But that’s the name of the game. As Will mentioned, it’s a very good problem for our team to have. We’re going to obviously try to finish 1-2-3-4 in the championship.”

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.