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IndyCar: Power on pole as Penske sweeps the front row at Portland

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Will Power soared to the 54th pole of his Verizon IndyCar Series career during qualifying for Sunday’s Portland Grand Prix (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Power’s best lap in the Firestone Fast Six came in at 57.3467 seconds, bettering Justin Wilson’s old track record (57.597 seconds) by over two tenths of a second.

Power’s Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden made it a Penske front row lock-out by qualifying second, though his lap – a 57.6877 – was over three tenths of a second behind Power.

Power’s 54th pole put him clear of A.J. Foyt on the all-time list, putting second behind Mario Andretti, who has 67.

“Yeah, I mean, obviously to be up with names like Foyt, pretty special, humbling,” Power said in the post-qualifying press conference. “I need to catch Mario now. I don’t think that will happen, that’s a lot of poles. But, yeah, unbelievable. I would never have dreamed of being up there with names like A.J. Foyt.”

For Power, who trailed Dixon by 68 points entering the weekend, Sunday’s race is vital for his championship hopes, and he feels he is in a must-win situation.

“You know, the end of the day we have to win,” he asserted. “We have no shot at Sonoma if we don’t. We know that. We’ll take risks depending on the situation. But unpredictable. We’re aware that we have to finish not only ahead of Alex and Scott, but quite ahead. If they’re in the top three, it makes it very difficult for us.”

Alexander Rossi, who trails Scott Dixon by 26 points in the championship, qualified third, with Sebastien Bourdais rebounding from a crash in Practice 3 to qualify a strong fourth.

Ryan Hunter-Reay will start fifth, while Zach Veach advanced to his first Firestone Fast Six, qualifying sixth.

While Rossi enjoyed a strong outing in qualifying, Scott Dixon struggled somewhat, as he failed to advance to the Fast Six and settled for 11th on the grid.

Others who advanced to Round 2, but just missed the Fast Six are James Hinchcliffe (seventh), Ed Jones (eighth), Marco Andretti (ninth), Graham Rahal (tenth), and Jordan King (12th).

Results are below.

 

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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.