Graham Rahal both disappointed, proud of fifth-place Long Beach finish

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Graham Rahal started Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach fifth and finished fifth – but that does not begin to tell the story of his race.

On lap one, his rear brakes locked up causing him to slam into the back of Simon Pagenaud, damaging the right rear suspension on the Frenchman’s car and sending it into the wall. Pagenaud was unable to return to the race and finished last in the 24-car IndyCar field.

Rahal received a stop-and-go penalty for what was deemed avoidable contact. Then, he had to meticulously pick his way through the pack the rest of the way.

“I’m sorry for Simon,” Rahal said following the race. “That’s not the way we like to do things. Just like St. Pete, the rears locked and I barely made the corner. I think (Scott) Dixon bailed out because he thought I wasn’t going to.”

“It hurt my race too,” Rahal continued. “Getting the penalty, going to the back and then battling our way through. I think we were the one car that had a shot at Rossi today. We made some changes there in the race and the Total car was honestly fantastic in the race.”

“I’m really disappointed in myself,” Rahal said. “I’m disappointed in the way it all began. But I’m proud of the Total team for the way that it finished. Everyone put their heads down and we made a lot of passes. I passed more cars here today than I’ve passed in a long time and we had a lot of fun.”

Finishing with his second top-five of the season, Rahal easily found the silver lining.

“This our best weekend yet,” Rahal concluded. “We weren’t good at St Pete; we weren’t really great at Phoenix. We deserved to be there this weekend, so it’s a little bit more bitter sweet.”

Rahal finished second in St Petersburg and was ninth at Phoenix.

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.