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Why Josef Newgarden will never forget his first Long Beach Grand Prix (nor will Dario Franchitti)

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If Josef Newgarden starts on the front row for Sunday’s 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, don’t be surprised if he looks for Dario Franchitti when he goes into Turn 1 after the green flag drops.

Newgarden is still kind of haunted by how his first attempt at Long Beach in an Indy car went back in 2012. Newgarden started on the front row for that race, alongside pole-sitter Franchitti, when Newgarden attempted to make a bold move to the outside heading going into Turn 1 to try and pass Francitti and take the early lead.

It proved, in hindsight, to be a very bad move, as Newgarden went into the turn too hard, too fast and too wide, touched wheels with Franchitti, and bounced into a tire wall.

End of story, end of race for Newgarden, who finished last in the 26-car field, managing to go just several hundred feet before his day was done.

Josef Newgarden tries to pass Dario Franchitti going into Turn 1 on the opening lap of the 2012 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. A second later, the two cars touched wheels, Newgarden bounced into a tire wall, and his day was over almost as quickly as it began. (Getty Images)

Franchitti, meanwhile, saw his day spoiled by the contact, but still managed to finish 15th, three laps down to race winner Will Power.

Even though that incident happened six years ago, Newgarden, who drove for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing in his rookie IndyCar season, still remembers it as if it happened yesterday.

During Friday’s media availability between the two IndyCar practice sessions, Newgarden was asked what he remembered about his run-in with the now-retired Franchitti.

“The number one thing I learned there was do not try and pass Dario Franchitti,” Newgarden said. “It was my inexperience and not knowing that was a bad decision.

“The more you drive, the more you get to learn your competition, the more you know what to do and what not to do around certain people, and obviously that was a bad decision against Dario.

“He obviously didn’t look at it very well, and you saw what happened. If I learned anything, it’s that, know your competition.”

Newgarden obviously did go on to not only know his competition well, he achieved the sport’s highest honor by winning the 2017 IndyCar championship, and won last Saturday’s second race of the 2018 season at Phoenix.

Here’s a refresher for Newgarden, in case he needs it for Sunday’s race (the contact comes at about 37 minutes and 35 seconds):

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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.