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Dixon scores a surprise second place at Gateway

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Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon did not hide his expectations for this weekend’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline.

“I’ll be honest. We didn’t expect to finish on the podium,” Dixon said post-race.

The reality of Honda’s short-oval aero package is that it generates considerably more drag than that of Chevrolet’s, immediately putting Dixon and the other Honda runners on the back foot entering the weekend.

However, Dixon managed to mask that disadvantage the best of all the Honda drivers and ran inside the top five for nearly the entire race. And, he took advantage of Josef Newgarden’s aggressive pass on Simon Pagenaud to get around Pagenaud for second late in the race, which is where he stayed until the checkered flag.

Dixon described afterward that progress during Friday night practice gave him hope that they’d be able to at least hang with the Penske cars.

“I think we saw in the warmup that the gap had closed significantly with the trim level that we were able to achieve,” he said. “I think mechanically our car was very good. We took a pretty big step in downforce off the car.”

However, Dixon also added that drafting off the Penske cars allowed him to stay with them, and he would’ve been unable to keep them at bay had he ever been out front.

“Unfortunately with the aero kit that we have, in this configuration, it just has a ton of drag. I think for me personally, you know, running with them was the best opportunity for speed for us. It enabled us to stay with them. I think our car was quite good through one and two. Had we been out front, I think we would have been a sitting duck.”

Dixon finished, “It worked out well with how the race played out. As I said earlier, it’s kind of the best circumstances we could have helped for.”

Dixon’s second-place finish moves him up to second in the championship, 31 points behind points leader Newgarden.

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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.