IndyCar

Disappointing IndyCar GP qualifying for Newgarden, Rossi

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The top two leaders in the NTT IndyCar Series points standings won’t start Saturday’s IndyCar Grand Prix leading the field to green.

Both points leader Josef Newgarden and second-ranked Alexander Rossi (28 points behind) did not advance from the first round of qualifying Friday afternoon.

Both drivers will start farther back in the field than they are accustomed: Newgarden starting 13th and Rossi staring 17th in the 24-car field. A surprising lack of pace ended their run early, and Newgarden himself was caught off guard by his unusual qualifying result.

“I felt like I did a good lap,” Newgarden told NBC Sports. “We’re all kind of back there, for whatever reason. But we’re pushing hard. We got a great team here. I think Team Chevy is pushing really hard for us, so I’m not 100% sure right now where we’re missing it, but I can promise you we’re going to go to work to try to find out. We’re not going to give up. ”

Watch the Indy 500 on May 26 on NBC

Rossi expressed similar sentiments when talking to reporters.

“We were just missing overall grip and pace all day. I don’t know that we can pinpoint it to one thing,” Rossi said. “We tried a whole new package for qualifying and it didn’t quite work out, and it wasn’t entirely different from [Practice 2] from performance and balance standpoint.

“We have some homework to do overnight. We’ve seen in the past that the guys who have an extra set of [Firestone alternate] reds – because they don’t advance out of Q1 – have a pretty good race day.

“Hopefully, that’s the case tomorrow for the NAPA Racing team. The reds are a pretty big step ahead of blacks in terms of performance, and hopefully we can use that and put on a show tomorrow.”

Head to head, Rossi has had better performances on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course than Newgarden. Rossi has earned progressively better finishes in his 3 starts there (10th-8th-5th), but Newgarden has never finished better than 11th in 5 starts.

But after today, Scott Dixon – who sits third in the standings at 33 points behind Newgarden – looks poised to close in on them in the championship, provided he converts his front-row starting spot into a strong result Saturday.

Watch the race on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC or at NBCSports.com or the NBC Sports app

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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.