Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Indy Lights: O’Ward wins Race 1 to clinch 2018 championship

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Patricio O’Ward clinched the 2018 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship on Saturday with a Race 1 victory following a hard-fought duel with Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta.

O’Ward led early on after starting on the pole, but Herta took the lead on Lap 5 after an aggressive inside pass entering Turn 1.

However, after regrouping and closing back in on Herta, O’Ward returned the favor on Lap 12, making the same move entering Turn 1 to retake the lead – Herta tried to defend, but was pushed out wide and bounded over the curbing in the Festival Curves.

O’Ward pulled away from there, leading Herta at the finish by 1.6 seconds.

The victory also comes after O’Ward crashed in qualifying for Race 2 earlier on Saturday. O’Ward drifted off the track approaching Turn 4, and slid all the way into the tire barrier, making hard contact with the left-front corner of his Dallara IL-15.

However, the Andretti Autosport team quickly repaired the car, allowing O’Ward to make the start for Race 1.

“I was screaming in the car! You work for it all year, so many months of just hard work and focus, and finally all that weight is off my shoulders,” said an elated and emotional O’Ward afterward.

Patricio O’Ward celebrates winning the 2018 Indy Lights championship. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“I knew it would be a battle with Colton (in Race 1), and I had to beat him, because that’s the only way you can be a champion. My pass on him was pretty much the same pass he did on me; he just didn’t give me as much room as I gave him. It was hard racing: we both want to win. I knew I had the car and I just had to get around him. It’s been this way all year, just hard-fought races. We have been pushing each other so hard, and IndyCar owners have realized that. Hopefully you’ll see us both in IndyCar next year!”

Herta finished second, with Victor Franzoni rounding out the podium.

Santi Urrutia, Ryan Norman, Aaron Telitz, Dalton Kellett, and Heamin Choi completed the running order.

Results are below. The 2018 season finishes on Sunday with Race 2 at 12:55 p.m. ET (9:55 a.m. local 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.