Fernando Alonso crashes late on the second day of Indy 500 practice

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INDIANAPOLIS — Fernando Alonso suffered a crash Thursday with just under an hour remaining during Indy 500 practice, bringing an abrupt halt to what had been an encouraging two days at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Alonso was exiting Turn 4 when he dipped his car low onto the concrete, causing him to wiggle up the track and hard into the outside wall. He slid through the entrance to pit lane without further contact (watch the video above).

The two-time Formula One champion sustained right-side damage to the wheels of his No. 66 Dallara-Chevrolet, which was ranked as the sixth fastest on the speed chart at the time of the crash.

“We just lost the grip of the car and at this place, the walls are very close,” Alonso told reporter Dillon Welch in an interview on NBC Sports Gold. “Just the way it is. Unfortunately it happened again today. Hopefully it just happens today and not on Sunday, Aug. 23.

“You learn every lap you do around this track, and we will learn from this one. Hopefully tomorrow we can start again. It has been going OK, more or less, so far this week, so hopefully we can keep it up the good work and have no more issues.”

Alonso, who crashed after making 126 laps, said he thought the car would be repairable. Friday is another practice before qualifying Saturday.

“I didn’t check, but it shouldn’t be too bad,” he said. “I will rely on the Arrow McLaren SP team, and we will be fine.It should be fine.”

Fernando Alonso’s damaged car is returned to the garage after a crash late in practice (Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar/USA TODAY Sports Images).

It’s the second consecutive year that Alonso crashed on the second day of Indy 500 practice.

He failed to qualify for the 2019 event but is guaranteed to be in this year’s 33-car field, which has no extra entries that could bump him.

Alonso, who confirmed Tuesday that he won’t race in the Indy 500 for at least the next two years because of his new F1 deal with Renault, was fifth fastest in the opening practice Wednesday and said his Arrow McLaren Racing SP team “was improving the car a little bit each time.”

As a 2017 rookie, Alonso led 27 laps and finished 24th because of an engine failure.

Craig Hampson, Alonso’s engineer for this year’s race, told Welch in an interview earlier Thursday that he believed the Spaniard could win the 104th Indianapolis 500 if given a strong car.

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.