Indianapolis 500
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Indianapolis 500 qualifying overhauled; bumping to Sunday

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In a move hailed as enhancing the drama of making The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the 103rd Indianapolis 500 will determine the field of 33 and pole position consecutively.

IndyCar announced Thursday that 30 positions will be locked in during nearly seven hours of qualifying May 18, which won’t be a traditional “Bump Day” (as the Saturday of qualifying weekend was last year).

On May 19, the 2.5-mile track will feature an hour of practice for the fastest nine cars and the cars that haven’t secured a top 30 speed. In an hour-long session beginning at 12:15 p.m., each unqualified car will get one attempt at filling one of the final three spots in the field.

Because more than 33 cars are expected to qualify, the session should feature the bumping of cars from the field that has made it a tension-filled exercise. (Last year, fan favorite and 2016 pole-sitter James Hinchcliffe failed to make the race).

After the last row of three cars is set, the Fast Nine shootout for the pole will begin at 1:15 p.m. The order will be based on Saturday times from slowest to fastest with each car having one attempt.

NBC will televise qualifying for the pole position and the last row from noon-3 p.m. May 19. The coverage then will move to NBCSN for a three-hour practice session that is expected to feature cars in race setup and running in packs as an Indy 500 preview.

“With this schedule, fans will get a phenomenal weekend of action, with two days of qualifying, bumping, the run for the pole and this incredible practice that effectively is the race before the race – all in a two-day span,” IndyCar President Jay Frye said in a release.

NBC will televise the Indianapolis 500 for the first time on May 26, the centerpiece of its first full season of NTT IndyCar Series coverage.

The 2019 season of 17 races will begin March 10 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Here’s a recap of how qualifying will work:

Saturday, May 18

  • Positions 10 through 30 in the Indianapolis 500 field will be decided, as well as Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout that will determine the pole position. Each entry is guaranteed one attempt and multiple four-lap runs may be made as time permits
  • Cars in positions 10 through 30 at the end of the session will be locked in and won’t requalify Sunday

Sunday, May 19

  • Those outside the top 30 will compete to make the last row, positions 31-33
  • The Fast Nine Shootout will determine the pole position

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.