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After back-to-back DNFs to start the year, securing a good finish was the mission for pole sitter Dario Franchitti in his 250th career start this afternoon. Consider the mission accomplished, as Franchitti battled to a fourth-place result at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The Scotsman’s attempt to turn his pole position into a win was partly stymied by problems on pit road. He lost a couple of positions on a lengthy first stop at Lap 29, and later lost third place and a podium finish to Justin Wilson on the final restart of the day while trying to avoid the lapped car of Charlie Kimball, who went into the Turn 1 tire barrier just moments after the green flag came back out.
“We dropped the car with three tires on the wagon I think, so that cost us a few good spots,” said Franchitti. “And then, I lost one here to Justin trying to avoid Charlie, who was a lap down and going for glory. At the end there, [Justin and I] were fairly evenly matched. It’s just that we chose to save fuel that last bit.
“With the loss of track position, I wasn’t good enough to catch Justin. But, a good result for the Target team after those first couple of DNFs.”
Franchitti collected his fifth Top-5 finish in 11 career starts at Long Beach, but more importantly, he gave his No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing team some important momentum to build off of as they head for Brazil in two weeks’ time.
Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.
Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.
“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”
Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”