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Rahal, Sato keep RLL on top in session two at ISM Raceway

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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing backed up their strong pace from Practice 1 at ISM Raceway – Takuma Sato topped speed charts in the afternoon – and put Graham Rahal’s No. 15 United Rentals Honda and Takuma Sato’s No. 30 Mijack Honda 1-2 on the board during Practice 2 on Friday night.

Both drivers averaged above 189 mph on their fastest laps, with Rahal’s 189.090 just barely getting the better of Sato’s 189.065.

“So far, so good. The car’s pretty quick on its own. What’s cool is Takuma is right there with us,” Rahal quipped to Katie Hargitt during the streaming coverage for the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

However, Rahal also added that he and the team are battling some setup issues, despite the strong pace they’ve demonstrated.

“I have some understeer that we’ve been fighting all day, using the outside front tire really, really hard, so we’re working on that. But, when you get in heavy traffic, the rear kind of wobbles around a little bit. So, some of that’s caused by the front catching and releasing and stuff like that, and some of it’s is stuff we’ve got to work on in the back.”

Still, as he detailed in a video on the team’s twitter page, there’s plenty of optimism early on.

“We only used one set of tires all afternoon, and I know many other teams used two, and in some cases, three, sets to try to keep up,” Rahal detailed in the aforementioned video. “So, I’m pleased with our performance, I’m pleased with the pace. We need to work on our car in the long runs a little bit, so we’re going to focus on that tomorrow. But, like I said, we saved a lot of tires, so we’ll have more tires, more time to work on it (on Saturday). But, so far, so good. I’m really proud of this team because to show up and have pace like that is excellent.”

Behind Rahal and Sato, Simon Pagenaud ended up third for Team Penske in his No. 22 Menards Chevrolet, with teammate Josef Newgarden right behind him in the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet.

A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan completed a strong first day for the Foyt team, ending up fifth in the No. 14 ABC Suppler Chevrolet.

While the early afternoon session saw sporadic running at times – only Kyle Kaiser did more than 60 laps, with the 23-car field covering 943 laps around the one-mile oval – the night session saw a dramatic uptick in running.

Over half of the field did more than 70 laps of running, with three drivers totaling more than 100 laps. Josef Newgarden led the way in that category, with 123 circuits during Practice 2, while the entire field covered 1,704 circuits, nearly doubling the amount of laps covered from the afternoon.

Practice 2 also saw a number of stoppages for track inspections, though the session was remarkably clean. Matheus Leist was the only driver to find trouble on track, the 19-year-old going for a brief spin exiting Turn 2. However, he did not make any wall contact and ended up tenth at the end of the session.

Results can be found here. Testing continues on Saturday with two more sessions, the first at 3:00 p.m. ET and the second at 8:00 p.m. ET, with steaming again available via IndyCar’s website.

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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.