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Things looking up for Marco Andretti after 6th-place finish at Long Beach

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It wasn’t a win; heck, it wasn’t even a top-five.

But Marco Andretti was pleased with his sixth-place finish in Sunday’s IndyCar Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Being his second top-10 in three races of the 2018 season, Long Beach marked Andretti’s best result yet. His previous best was a ninth on the other road course in St Petersburg.

And while the race results have been decent, Andretti has struggled to find the right setup for qualifying. Starting 18th in the season-opener, Andretti’s ninth-place finish was hard fought. He was even worse in qualification trim at Phoenix, starting 20th on the grid.

“I’m making my Sunday’s miserable,” Rahal said in a post-race interview. “As soon as I get my qualifying together, I think we’re going to win a race.”

Long Beach was another disappointing start for Andretti. Mired deep in the 24-car field, he rolled off the grid 20th for the second consecutive race – behind the opening lap chaos that erupted between Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal.

“We passed 14 cars today – something like that,” Andretti said. “We raced really well. (Saturday) I just made a mistake in qualifying on the brakes.”

Andretti was able to manage traffic a little better in Long Beach than St Petersburg, but it was not an easy task.

“(There was) a lot of slicing and dicing mid-pack,” Andretti said.

Now he shifts from two street courses in the first three races to a permanent road course — Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama — this weekend. In eight starts there, he has three top-five and two other top-10 finishes.

But the third-generation Andretti family racer is also coming off his worst finish at Barber in last year’s race (21st), so his strong finishes thus far this season, as well as his prediction of winning a race this year, couldn’t come at a better place or time.

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.