IndyCar practice Mid-Ohio
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Ryan Hunter-Reay tops IndyCar Mid-Ohio practice; Pato O’Ward spins

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Ryan Hunter-Reay paced practice Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as the NTT IndyCar Series hit the road course for the first time on its doubleheader race weekend.

The No. 28 Dallara-Honda driver turned a lap of 1 minute, 6.33 seconds, putting him just ahead of Will Power (1:06.395). Alexander Rossi, Hunter-Reay’s Andretti Autosport teammate, was third quickets at 1:06.430.

Points leader Scott Dixon, who won at Mid-Ohio last year, was fourth fastest, followed by Santino Ferrucci.

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Josef Newgarden, Alex Palou, Colton Herta, Conor Daly and Marco Andretti rounded out the top 10 as Andretti placed four of its cars in the top half of the 23-car field.

There were two significant incidents during the session involving championship contenders.

Dixon went off course for a half-spin 25 minutes into the session. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who was second fastest at the time, avoided any damage to his No. 9 Dallara-Honda, and the five-time series champion rebounded to get back on track and run top-five speeds near the end of the session.

Pato O’Ward, who is third in the standings after consecutive podiums two weeks ago at Gateway, wasn’t so lucky 35 minutes into the session.

The Arrow McLaren SP driver lost control of his No. 5 Dallara-Chevrolet in Turn 12 and backed into the tire barrier, making contact with the left rear and left front. The session went under a red flag for 12 minutes.

O’Ward was unhurt but was left with only 12 laps in the session (all the other drivers made at least 23 laps). He thought his team could fix the car in time for qualifying at 2 p.m.

“It just seems like the car maybe bottomed out, and I lost the rear,” O’Ward told NBC Sports Gold pit reporter Kelli Stavast. “Obviously, not the start we wanted. Wanted to get more laps in here, and I truly don’t think I was pushing that hard to get in a situation like that. We’ll fix it back up, get ready for qualifying. We’ll be going in a little blindsided, but there’s not much more we can than try to do the best we can.

“It doesn’t seem like the damage is too bad. Track position is absolutely key, so we’re in a little stress point now, but we’ll be fine. We’ll just have to tackle it and see what we can come up with later 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.