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Hunter-Reay fastest in Laguna Seca P2; title contenders run off-course

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MONTEREY, Calif – Ryan Hunter-Reay was the fastest driver in the second practice session for IndyCar’s championship-deciding race Friday afternoon at Laguna Seca Raceway, posting a best time of 1 minute, 9.9105 seconds around the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course.

Hunter-Reay led Rookie of the Year candidate Felix Rosenqvist by 0.02 seconds.

Fellow rookie Colton Herta, who was fastest both during testing on Thursday and in Friday morning’s first practice session, was third fastest in the second practice with Simon Pagenaud the fastest of the four championship contenders in fourth.

Pagenaud and fellow title contender Scott Dixon (seventh fastest) turned heads when they simultaneously went off course and brought out the lone red flag of the session with roughly 20 minutes remaining in the session in Turns 1 and 10, respectfully. Neither car was damaged

Points leader Josef Newgarden was sixth fastest in the practice.

After finishing dead last in the morning session, Alexander Rossi, who trails Newgarden by 41 points, didn’t fare much better in P2, finishing 23rd of 24 drivers.

Santino Ferrucci finished the session fifth fastest.

Live coverage of Practice 3 for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey begins Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold, qualifying is at 4:30 p.m. on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold and race coverage begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC and NBC Sports Gold.

Click here for full practice 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.