Will Power

Realistically, it’s win or bust for Will Power this weekend in Brazil

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It’s not worth mincing words: Will Power needs to win this weekend in Sao Paulo (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).

Power has gone more than a full calendar year, albeit only over by a few days, since his win at Brazil last year. That was his most recent win in IZOD IndyCar Series competition. The Verizon Team Penske driver has also gone a perfect three-for-three in winning at Sao Paulo, so that helps.

This year, a cartoon anvil has seemingly chased him around the first three races.

JR Hildebrand made a goofy mistake in St. Pete, crashing into Power’s right rear wheel guard under caution.

Power dropped like a stone in Barber on the start and only restart of the day and wound up a disheartening fifth, and needed a caution to make his strategy work.

Then in Long Beach, he was running fine before contact with Tristan Vautier in the pits cost him a right rear wheel guard again, and affected his straight line speed.

Earlier this year, Power described the competition level as “phenomenal,” because “one session you can be first, then you don’t gain enough in the next and you’re 16th.”

That it may be but if Power doesn’t get the job done this weekend, you’d think his next best chance would be the doubleheader weekend on the streets of Detroit, June 1-2. The oval stretch of the schedule comes after Brazil, with Detroit the only interruption.

Of Power’s 18 career wins (IndyCar and Champ Car combined), only one (Texas 2011 race 2) has come on an oval. He is the acknowledged road and street course master and until he breaks his duck on ovals, he’ll still have that stigma attached.

Or, for all we know, he could turn into an oval demon and win three or four oval races in the stretch between Indianapolis and Pocono, and pretty much turn the IndyCar world on its head.

Given the way this year has transpired, where there have already been two first-time winners and eight podium finishers of a possible nine, none of whom named Will Power or Dario Franchitti, would that be so far-fetched after all?

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Carlos Munoz

Carlos Munoz
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver roster in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series. Next up in 13th is Carlos Munoz, who fell back to earth a bit after winning Indianapolis 500, then series rookie-of-the-year honors in consecutive years.

Carlos Munoz, No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 8th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 3 Podiums, 5 Top-5, 8 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 10.5 Avg. Start, 12.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 13th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 25 Laps Led, 14.0 Avg. Start, 12.1 Avg. Finish

Munoz fell down to earth a little bit in his second full season in IndyCar, albeit not as badly as fellow 2014 rookie Jack Hawksworth, who’d switched teams and had a myriad of issues throughout the season. He won his first race in the rain at Detroit race one, which was well judged, but there were precious other highlights from the driver who has showcased “wow” potential in the past.

His qualifying fell off year-to-year and that was probably the single thing to pinpoint as to why the decline occurred, falling from eighth to 13th in points. What had been a 10.5 average in 2014 fell to 14th this year, and behind teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Ovals seemed his strongest type of circuit this year on the whole. Like teammate Justin Wilson, he’d been in position to score what would have been his third straight Indianapolis 500 top-five finish if a late splash of fuel wasn’t needed. Sixth at Texas from fourth on the grid marked his best overall weekend of the year, and fifth at Iowa and Pocono were also fairly good results.

But whereas Munoz picked his spots well last year and delivered a handful of podiums, his Detroit win marked his only podium visit this year. He didn’t really make much of an impression and was more anonymous than not over the course of the year. His future with Andretti is uncertain for 2016.

Williams maximizes wet setup work despite limited running in Sochi

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With action pretty much limited in both practice sessions due to the diesel spillage in free practice one and rain in free practice two for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, teams could only do limited wet-weather runs.

Williams Martini Racing tried to make the best of the circumstances, as one of only five teams that completed laps in FP2 (McLaren, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Ferrari) with eight cars.

Felipe Massa led second practice but it was an essentially meaningless session.

“It was quite a stunted session today which stopped us from completing all of the work we wanted to,” said Rob Smedley, Williams’ head of vehicle performance. “We had planned to run in the wet but we had a strange situation this afternoon in that half of the circuit was much wetter than the other half which made most of the tests null and void.

“We have been working on the wet set-up of the car and so wanted to get out at the end of FP2 to see the progress we have made. In a similar vein to our low speed corner work in Singapore, we seem to be making progress. We got through all of the bits and pieces we wanted to get through in terms of control systems and power unit set-up, and we have to go into tomorrow with a good plan for FP3 to get the car set-up for qualifying and the race.”

Valtteri Bottas finished third in Sochi a year ago, while Massa seeks a rebound after a fuel flow issue in qualifying resigned him to a Q1 elimination and an 11th place finish.