IndyCar

Helio Castroneves is fastest in first full Indy 500 practice session, Danica is 18th fastest

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If there was any doubt that Helio Castroneves is bound and determined to earn a record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500 victory this year, he quickly put that to rest Tuesday.

Castroneves consistently had one of the fastest cars throughout the first full day of practice Tuesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 102nd Running of the 500 on May 27.

That included being fastest in the third and final practice session of the day – which for the first time included 34 of the 35 cars entered in the race – with a top speed of 224.665 mph.

“We started right away with a good pace,” Castroneves said. “Good job, everyone, running issue-free.

“We still have a long way to go, but it was a very base test with the new car actually with traffic and everything. Looking forward to another day tomorrow.so we continue to work and pursue that right result.”

Ed Carpenter was second-fastest (224.523 mph), followed by Jay Howard (224.518), Scott Dixon (224.353) and Marco Andretti (224.217).

Carpenter also had the fastest non-tow time of all drivers on-track.

“It was kind of a weird day – I almost feel like this is Day Two for some reason,” Carpenter said. “I was pretty happy starting off. As we always do around here, we made changes to try and get better. We probably got a little worse, then we finally got onto some things at the end of the day.

“That’s why we have to keep working out here and try to get the feel for what we want. All in all, it was a good first day. I need to go talk to my teammates and compare what we all got in to over the course of the day. For Day One, it’s a good start, but I feel like there’s a lot more in the car, too!”

Ed Carpenter during practice for the Indianapolis 500. Photo: IndyCar

Sixth through 10th were Sage Karam (223.998), Charlie Kimball (223.921), Gabby Chaves (223.640), Zach Veach (223.551) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (223.488).

Howard recorded the most laps of practice (69), followed by 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi (68), Jack Harvey (67) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (66).

The three-hour session was interrupted for about a half-hour due to rain, but was able to resume to complete the first day’s activities. Practice on Wednesday runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

As for other drivers of note in Tuesday’s practice:

* Defending Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato was 13th-fastest (223.305 mph).

* Simon Pagenaud was 14th (223.284 mph) fastest in the final practice. He was also the fastest driver overall for the day, recording a speed of 225.787 mph in the morning session. Castroneves’ afternoon speed was the second-fastest overall for the day.

* Danica Patrick was 18th (222.728 mph).

* Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix winner, Will Power, was 22nd (222.495 mph).

* James Hinchcliffe, defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and Graham Rahal all struggled, scoring 25th (221.900 mph), 26th (221.852) and 27th (221.671 mph) respectively.

* Rookie Matheus Leist was the only driver who failed to get on-track during either the morning or afternoon sessions. It’s unclear what the reason was, whether it was illness or something else, but a tweet from A.J. Foyt Racing said Leist will be back at-track on Wednesday.

Speaking of Leist, we thought we’d share this “coaching video” where Tony Kanaan — dressed as Leist (and with hair!) because he was missing — talked about the advice Kanaan “gave” Leist about competing in the Indy 500.

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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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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.