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Pippa Mann wins this time in the wait to make the Indianapolis 500

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INDIANAPOLIS – Pippa Mann faced an excruciating dilemma Saturday in Indianapolis 500 qualifying.

Her car was fast enough to make the field, but the line of cars that might prove critical to staying in the race wasn’t moving fast enough.

“I literally had to sit there sweating it out, and all that was going through my head was, ‘Not again, please not again, please, please not again,’” said Mann, who narrowly missed last year’s race.

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The native of Ipswich, England, was able to avoid a repeat, making the field as the 30th and final driver guaranteed a spot on the first day of qualifying.

Mann, one of nine women to race in the Indy 500, initially had qualified in 19th at 12:27 p.m., and it seemed for most of the next three hours that she was a cinch to make her seventh start at the Brickyard’s Memorial Day weekend classic.

But her No. 39 Dallara-Chevrolet began falling steadily on the qualifying results chart as the track kept getting quicker later in the afternoon. Mann flashed back to her failure to qualify for the 2018 Indy 500 in virtually the same way.

“We felt we were going to slot in somewhere between 23rd and 26th-ish today, which happened, and then we kind of miscalculated how much better the track conditions were going to get at the end of the day,” she said. “And by the time we realized how much better they were and how much quicker we’d have been able to run, there were too many cars in the line to pull our time to go.”

Ultimately, she and her Clauson-Marshall Racing team had made the right call, and that prompted tears in an emotional interview on NBCSN.

“We made it,” said Mann, who finished a career-best 17th in her most recent Indy 500 start in 2017. “We’re locked in! We made it. Thank you.”

Mann, 35, is driving for an entry founded in honor of Bryan Clauson, the late USAC, IndyCar and NASCAR driver who was killed in a 2016 sprint car crash. Clauson’s father, Tim, is a co-owner with Richard Marshall.

Clauson-Marshall Racing regularly competes in USAC sprint car events; this will mark its Indy 500 debut. The seed actually was planted when Mann missed the race last year, and Tim Clauson approached her in a suite at IMS as she watched the event.

“I should have been in the car and wasn’t, and he told me this was something he wanted to do, and it’s taken us a year of work to get this far,” said Mann, who plans to return to work as a performance driving coach after Indy. “So right now this is just one race for now, but I’m really very honored that Tim chose me to come drive his car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time following in Bryan’s footsteps.

“It means a huge amount to me. I’m an odd choice to a lot of people because I’m not a dirt racer, I’m a road racer who’s joined a dirt racing team. But the Clauson family and the Marshall family have kind of become like family to me over the past couple years. This has been an incredibly cool experience and I am so glad this ended this way today.”

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.