Munoz gets tow to the top of Indy 500 practice

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Andretti Autosport rookie Carlos Munoz’s tow-assisted lap of 223.023 miles per hour was enough to lead the second day of practice for the 97th Indianapolis 500.

Munoz led an Andretti charge that saw all but one of their drivers inside the top five on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ryan Hunter-Reay was second-quickest at 222.825 mph, followed by E.J. Viso in third (222.523) and Marco Andretti in fourth (222.485). Another rookie, Team Penske’s A.J. Allmendinger, was fifth-fastest (221.279).

In addition to leading the charts, Munoz had the first near-miss of the month when he almost collided with Marco Andretti in Turn 1. The Colombian was forced to avoid Andretti by sticking the left-side tires of his No. 26 Chevrolet in the grass.

With a scare attained — and thankfully, nothing else — Munoz called the matter a “misunderstanding” afterwards.

“Inside the turn, I went into the dirt; it was close,” said Munoz, who notched the third-quickest time on Saturday after passing his Rookie Orientation Program. “In the race, I’m going to have those situations. I had two tires in the grass, so I was lucky to continue. After that, I was more comfortable behind the guys.”

Hunter-Reay, the reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion, considered Sunday a day to get back into a rhythm with the Brickyard.

“This place is so special for so many reasons,” the American said. “It really drives like no other racetrack. It was good to get back in it, shake a little rust off at Indy and get ready for the week.”

730 laps were turned by 23 drivers this afternoon at IMS despite cool and gusty weather that made the notoriously tricky 2.5-mile oval even trickier. The weather team at Indianapolis’ NBC affiliate, WTHR-13, is forecasting temperatures in the low 60s for tomorrow, but more ideal conditions should arrive mid-week for the drivers and teams as highs soar into the 80s.

On tap for tomorrow: More practice, the expected arrival of A.J. Foyt Racing rookie Conor Daly for his own ROP session, and a scheduled “refresher test” for Dale Coyne Racing’s third driver this month, Pippa Mann.

Montoya: ‘Hopefully I get a chance to do Indy again’ (VIDEO)

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Juan Pablo Montoya is on site at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, his latest trip in a summer and fall filled with a lot of international travel and a number of different race cars he’s been in.

Montoya is committed to a full season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Acura Team Penske in 2018, as he’ll share one of the team’s Acura ARX-05s with Dane Cameron.

However, the question of whether he’ll be able to race in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil remains.

Team Penske has said it plans to only run four cars next month of May, with Helio Castroneves as the fourth driver alongside the three full-time cars driven by Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power.

While Montoya has said elsewhere that he’s shopping offers and has talked with other teams, it’d be highly surprising to see the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion who developed the Chevrolet engine for IndyCar’s 2018 Dallara universal body kit in a Honda-powered IndyCar, although he is running Honda’s brand (Acura) in sports cars.

Montoya elaborated on his Indy 500 prospects in an interview with NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton at the Circuit of The Americas.

“Not full-time no,” Montoya told NBCSN of his IndyCar 2018 prospects. “Hopefully I get a chance to go to Indy, hopefully with Penske, (and) if not someone else. We’ll see.”

Photo: IndyCar

Montoya has extolled the early testing both on the 2018 IndyCar and on the Acura ARX-05.

The first Acura chassis has run at Road Atlanta and Sebring International Raceway thus far, and will be put through its paces at other venues over the next few months.

“It’s been good. We did a lot of work with INDYCAR on that car. Fans are gonna like it,” Montoya said of the 2018 kit.

“Going to IMSA with the Acura program, we’ve done a lot of testing. It’s a beauty to drive. It drives better than what it looks! I haven’t had that much fun driving a race car in a long time.”

Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) race car to be campaigned by Team Penske in 2018