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Dixon, Newgarden, Power quickest in Saturday’s IndyCar practice at St. Pete

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Scott Dixon shot to the top of the speed chart late during Saturday’s IndyCar lone practice session for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Dixon covered the 1.88-mile track layout alongside Tampa Bay with a time of 1:00.7571, not far off from Will Power’s track record of 1:00.6580.

Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden was second quickest (1:00.8654), followed by Power (1:00.8718).

Fourth through 10th were rookie Jordan King (1:01.0321), followed by another rookie, Matheus Leist (1:01.0327), 2016 series camp Simon Pagenaud (1:01.0654), Spencer Pigot (1:01.0940), 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi (1:01.1132), 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato (1:01.1501) and Tony Kanaan (1:01.3205).

11th through 20th were: Marco Andretti (1:01.3532), Ryan Hunter-Reay ((1:01.3548), James Hinchcliffe (1:01.3592), Zach Veach (1:01.3678), defending race winner Sebastien Bourdais (1:01.4053), rookie Robert Wickens (1:01.4644), Gabby Chaves (1:01.5125), Ed Jones (1:01.5337), Graham Rahal (1:01.6708) and Jack Harvey (1:01.7094).

Lastly, 21st through 24th were Max Chilton (1:01.8545), Charlie Kimball (1:01.9193), rookie Zachary Claman De Melo (101.9393) and rookie Rene Binder (1:02.9615) continued to have issues finding speed.

Among incidents in Saturday’s session:

* With about 28:30 left in the session, rookie Matheus Leist spun in Turn 4, bringing out a brief red flag situation.

That particular turn caused nearly a half-dozen drivers problems in Friday’s two practice sessions.

Interestingly, no drivers have hit the wall in Turn 4. They’ve just gone for a ride, spin and then continued on after getting restarted.

* With about 22:45 left, Ed Jones went into the Turn 1 runoff area after locking up his brakes.

* Shortly after Jones’ issue, Graham Rahal almost lost control, but collected it up and kept it off the wall.

* With about 18 minutes left, rookie Zachary Claman De Melo spun into the Turn 4 runoff area.

* With just over 13 minutes to go in the practice session, Turn 4 bit yet another driver, as Alexander Rossi added his name to the roster of drivers who spun into Turn 4’s runoff area.

* Jordan King had looked strong, running consistently in the top 5, but with just over one minute to go in the session, plowed into a tire wall exiting Turn 12. The car suffered minor damage and King was uninjured.

Conditions were significantly different than Friday’s two practice sessions. Friday was near-perfect conditions with sun shining throughout the day and temperatures in the mid-70s.

Saturday morning, however, the temperature was 66 degrees at the time practice began, with a heavy cloud cover and no rain.

Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying takes place later this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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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.