Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Indy Lights: Ryan Norman outduels Colton Herta for first career win

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It was hardly a surprise that a pair of Andretti Autosport teammates engaged in a duel for the race win in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, but it was slightly different from the usual battle we’ve seen lately.

While Colton Herta, who started on the pole, was expected to be in the fight for the win, teammate Ryan Norman was his surprise counterpart this time – Patricio O’Ward started third and was shuffled back to fifth on the opening lap, and could only get back up to third and was not a factor for the win.

Herta and Norman engaged in a thrilling late-race dog fight that saw Norman routinely try outside passes on Herta at seemingly every turn, with Herta able to hold him off every time.

However, Norman eventually timed his move perfectly and sliced to the inside of Herta entering Turn 3 to take the lead with less than 10 laps remaining.

Herta tried to battle back, but was unable to get back around Norman, and the 20-year from Ohio took his first career Indy Lights win.

“Colton put up a great fight, props to him, that was such a fun race. It’s a huge weight lifted off my shoulders,” said an elated Norman afterward.

“I knew I had to do it with only two weekends left. I’ve had podiums this season, but some of those were given and I wanted to show everyone that I am capable of really racing for wins. But this whole field is amazing: I believe that if there were 15 cars, it would still be these top seven cars. It’s such a cool series to be a part of and I’m glad I’m here.”

O’Ward rounded out the podium in third, with Santi Urrutia, Aaron Telitz, Victor Franzoni, and Dalton Kellett completing the finishing order.

Herta did reduce the points deficit to O’Ward, but only marginally. O’Ward now leads by 25 points entering the final race weekend of the year at Portland International Raceway.

Pro Mazda: VeeKay Inches Closer to Championship With Fifth Win in a Row

Rinus VeeKay took his fifth win in a row on Saturday. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Rinus VeeKay overtook pole sitter Harrison Scott off the start and rocketed away to take a dominating victory in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

VeeKay led all 55 laps on the way to the victory, his fifth in a row and seventh of the 2018 season.

“I knew the start would be the time to make a move and risked it a little bit going into Turn 1 because I didn’t know how the car was going to be. But the car stayed stable and I got around Harrison in Turns 3 and 4 and held it the rest of the way for a 1-2 for the team,” Veekay said afterward.

“They gave me a great race car, so I’m so grateful. I tried to focus in every corner, on doing the best I could and not take more risks than I needed to because the championship was in the back of my mind. I stayed pretty cool – but in my head, not around me because it was super hot.”

Teammate Robert Megennis came home second to make it a Juncos Racing 1-2, while Harrison Scott rounded out the podium in third. Moises de la Vara and Oliver Askew rounded out the top five.

Parker Thompson, VeeKay’s championship rival, started last after suffering an electrical issue in qualifying and could do no better than sixth at the checkered flag.

As such, VeeKay now leads Thompson by 47 points entering Portland.

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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.