Graham Rahal won both races in Detroit last year. Photo: Getty Images

What Drivers Said after two practices for Detroit Grand Prix

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Here’s What Drivers Said after Friday’s two IndyCar practice sessions at Belle Isle in Detroit in preparation for Saturday’s and Sunday’s Detroit Grand Prix races (quotes courtesy IndyCar Media Relations):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “Solid first day here in Detroit. We’ve got some great pace and I feel confident we’ll be able to challenge for the Verizon P1 award tomorrow in qualifying. It’s a jam-packed weekend with not a lot of time for adjustments, so I’m very pleased the crew at Team Penske put together a car for me that was this comfortable out of the gate.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “The day went OK, I think. It is my first time here in Detroit, so the first couple laps in Practice 1, we just concentrated on learning the track and getting some laps in. It’s a pretty tricky track, very bumpy, probably the bumpiest track I’ve ever been to, but it is OK. We still have some work to do for tomorrow – we are struggling a little bit with the red (Firestone alternate) tires; on the blacks (Firestone primary tires), we seem OK. Happy to be here, I think it’s a nice street course. Looking forward to both races this weekend.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “Up and down first day. In the first session, we had some issues with the brakes and we were really struggling to get the car to feel the way I wanted. Huge credit to the Arrow Electronics guys… this seems to be a trend of ours in 2018: turning around from a bad session and making it a good one. Even on the blacks (Firestone primary tires) before I went to the reds (alternate Firestone tires), the car got miles better, really just sorted it out and the track came alive. Then we put the reds on and managed to get a solid time out of it. It’s still early. It sucks to get so little practice here in Detroit, but it’s the same for everyone. We just have to make the best of it and try and put a good show on tomorrow.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “A pretty good day here in Detroit with the No. 6 Lucas Oil guys. On the red (Firestone alternate tires) in Practice 2, I made a mistake and lost about four-tenths (of a second) and we’re still in the top 10, so we’ve got a strong car. We just have to minimize our mistakes tomorrow to get a good qualifying spot and try to score some good points in the race. Everything is looking pretty great here at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with both of our cars in the top 10 again.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think, overall, we had a really good day and I was very happy with our PNC Bank car out there. The speed on the black Firestone (primary) tires was really good and the car felt quite good on the reds (Firestone alternate tires) after that when we improved the times. I got into the wall around Turn 13 and lost some time, but the car just has a ton of speed and hopefully we can translate that into two good points-paying (races) here in Detroit.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was a tough day. This track is always difficult. In the first session, we tried some things that we weren’t happy with in the NTT DATA car, but made some progress in the second session. We were the only car not on sticker blacks (new Firestone primary tires) in the beginning, and we looked pretty competitive at that point. When we went to the reds (Firestone alternate tires), we missed something pretty fundamental where we were bottoming out, which made it difficult to get the tires up to temp. But we made a big jump after Practice 1 and I’m excited to see what we can do tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Today’s practices were not bad. We kind of made a mistake when we were doing pretty well in that last session. We still have a bit of pace to find compared to the other cars, but the No. 12 Verizon Chevy team is working to find it.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It was a good first session and then we got a little bit messed up in the second. We hadn’t changed much from the morning. I think we were closer in the first session than the second. I think the other guys made a big jump, so we’ve got a little bit of work to do overnight. With the red flags, and my red flag, we didn’t have a lot of time to do anything, so we’ll think about it and come back in qualifying tomorrow.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “In the end, the United Rentals car was not bad. We certainly weren’t great, but our pace is close. We struggled with the car being very, very loose compared to last year. We made a big change mid-session, before we had even done any real running. We just took a big swing at it, just because we felt that with the red flag, we were going to lose time if we didn’t just try it. It was probably the wrong way to go, so now we know that and we will go back and adjust for qualifying and hopefully we will be OK.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): “Overall, a good day for the SealMaster Honda No. 18 team. We started pretty good this morning after we made a change. The car was not really in the zone to begin with, then we made one change and it brought things to life. I did a decent lap and it held up for the rest of the session. This afternoon the track gripped up, the temperature went up and it seemed to be tough on the tires. We are not quite where we should be on the speed report, maybe three tenths (of a second) off, so we’ll see if we can fine-tune things and optimize for tomorrow. It is going to be a bit of a challenge tomorrow because it is going to cool off and it is very likely to rain tonight. We’ll see what happens.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “My first official day in the No. 19 Paysafe car was really good. To end up P6 in the first session was very nice. We’re obviously still working on the car. We struggled a bit more with the understeer in the second practice session, but I’m confident we’ll get it sorted out. The track is ridiculously bumpy and very fast. It’s a little ‘icy’ too, so it’s a little bit like a skating rink for race cars, but I’m very much enjoying my time here, enjoying the track and driving the car.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Allegiant International Chevrolet): “We had a good feel of the circuit today and we got up to speed quite quickly. At the beginning of the second session, coming into the last corner, I lost the rear and got a bit of a snap. It wasn’t a big thing, but by the time I caught the car, I was in too wide and then, obviously, the wall was right there. When we touched the wall, it broke the left rear, which caused me to go across the circuit and hit the right side of the car. It’s really annoying because it was a tiny error, but it was quite costly.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “We made some good improvements today. The second session was definitely a lot better, especially on blacks (Firestone primary tires). We didn’t get a good run in on reds (Firestone alternate tires) because of traffic and the red flag periods, but we are still encouraged. I am looking forward to qualifying in the morning and having the first race of the weekend tomorrow afternoon.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a good day. I think the No. 22 DXC Technology Chevy is getting to where I want to be. This weekend we’re in a Chevy town, so we want to do well for them. We have strong competition from the Hondas. It’s going to be tough, but I feel like we’ve done a great job from Practice 1 to Practice 2, so we’re improving the car. Tomorrow, we’re going to try and get into the Firestone Fast Six.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): “It was kind of a scattered session. Every time we were getting ready to do a quick lap, it went red or yellow or we got held up in traffic. I’m a little disappointed with where we are on the timing sheets – I know there’s more in the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet. We found a couple of things in the setup that were much improved toward the end of that last session. I think we did our fastest lap time with old tires and a lot of fuel in the car, so that’s not bad at all. We’re not happy with 20th, but the Carlin team has done a great job preparing for this race. We rolled off the truck looking really good, so we’ll continue to make improvements tonight and hopefully have a solid qualifying session tomorrow morning and a good race result.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): “Day 1 in Detroit is done and I’m happy with it. I’ve never raced here, so it’s been a little bit of a learning experience. To be seventh quick in the morning, 10th quick in the afternoon and only a tenth (of a second) out of the top five – I have a lot to feel good about. I think the Relay car is a lot stronger than it showed in the second session. I’m really excited. I’ve never felt more confident that I can start in the top six, and I’ve never felt more confident that I have a car that can run in the top five and put me in a position to win. We just have to make sure we make small changes and make good decisions tomorrow because it’s going to be a busy day.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda): “It was a good day, the Ruoff Home Mortgage car is a fast race car. We had a bit of a disjointed session with going opposite of some people on tire strategy. With that being said, we’re really happy and looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully, there are no curveballs with the weather and we can carry on with where we are.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It’s a lot of fun around here. You really have to wheel the car to get it done, but hats off to the Andretti Autosport team. We came here with a much better car this year. I was really happy with the balance on the DHL car, even to start out with. The car was basically doing the fundamentals that I needed it to do, the front was working well and from there we just kept chipping away at it. It was a good first practice today, but a lot is riding on tomorrow with qualifying and Race 1.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Fifth Third Bank Honda): “The day was a little bit of a mixture of results. We found some positives, but mostly we were struggling with an issue with the brakes and other things, so and never really solved them. It never felt comfortable, unfortunately, and with the short sessions, that’s what we’ve got. At least we have been competitive here most of the time, so we will see how it turns out in qualifying.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop Timber Chevrolet): “It’s been a difficult first day in Detroit – the first time I have been to this circuit. It’s really tricky and the most difficult track I have ever drove on. I’m trying to get used to the bumps and the circuit. The more laps we are able to do, the better I will get. I am looking forward to tomorrow and will do my best.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “It wasn’t bad for us today. Outside of the Penske cars, we were the fastest Chevrolet car out there – I think that’s the first time we’ve done that this season. We’ve been right up there all day in the timing sheets, but we dropped down at the end of the session because a lot of the other cars went to reds (Firestone alternate tires) toward the end. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the balance and hopefully we can get a clean day ahead of us tomorrow.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “Just finished the first day of practice in Detroit. We found a lot that we could improve on in between practice sessions, so we’re really happy with that. We still need to work on a few things, but for the most part, it was good to use the second session to get some laps in and work out the kinks on some things. Overall, I’m very happy with the direction we’ve taken. The results don’t show it yet, but I think we’ll keep improving this weekend.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 AutoNation / Curb Honda): “It was a pretty good Day 1. We know where the time is, so that’s good. From here we just have small changes, and then hopefully we’re able to execute in qualifying and we can have a really good race for the AutoNation team.”

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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.