Joe Skibinski / IndyCar

Hinchcliffe fastest again in wild third practice at Barber

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After topping yesterday’s second practice, James Hinchcliffe was once again the fastest driver in an eventful third practice session for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday.

The Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver was the only driver to post a lap under 1 minute, 9 seconds. His fastest lap of 1 minute, 8.7351 seconds knocked Sebastien Bourdais (1 minute, 9.0351 seconds) off the top spot in the final lap of the session.

Watch the race on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN or at or the NBC Sports app

Just as Hinchcliffe remained quick, Practice 3 continued another trend of red flags coming out for cars off-course.

Zach Veach was the first driver to bring out the red flag, when he locked up entering Turn 5 and slid his No. 26 Andretti Autosport car into a gravel trap with 35 minutes remaining in the session.

Hinchcliffe’s teammate, Marcus Ericsson, later brought out another red flag after going off in Turn 1 and making contact with the outside wall with 15 minutes to go, causing significant suspension damage to his No. 7 car. Ericsson walked away from the accident safely.

Right before Ericsson’s trouble, Jack Harvey had spun unassisted in Turn 1 and Ryan Hunter-Reay also went off there. But both drivers were able to avoid further trouble; Hunter-Reay in particular managed to go through the gravel pit and avoid the wall.

The session almost ended under red after Graham Rahal became stuck in the gravel pit near Turn 5. However, INDYCAR officials allowed drivers to make one more lap under green before waving the checkered flag on the only practice session of the day.

Scott Dixon (1 minute, 9.2334 seconds) was third fastest, with Colton Herta (1 minute, 9.2444 seconds) and Takuma Sato (1 minute, 9.2692 seconds) rounding out the top five.

Qualifying will take place later today at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN & NBC Sports Gold.

Full Practice 3 results 

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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.