Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon looks for another rally at Indianapolis

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When you have a team like Target Chip Ganassi Racing behind you, you’re usually in a position to contend almost anywhere – including the Indianapolis 500. Scott Dixon, last year’s “500” runner-up, has been in this position for over a decade with TCGR, and it has to play a little into his belief that he can win Sunday’s race from 16th position.

But, as he knows very well, running for a team as strong as Ganassi at the Brickyard doesn’t just add confidence.

“It’s added pressure too, because there’s a lot to be expected,” said Dixon on Thursday during Media Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I think everybody on our team and most of the other teams, we come here to win and you come here to do the best you can. I think the only time you might feel bad is if you did something where you didn’t give it your all or made a mistake to not achieve what you should have.”

Dixon and TCGR teammate Dario Franchitti have been battling for pace at Indianapolis, and will both be starting from the middle of the pack on Sunday. However, the Hondas showed their muscle today during Carb Day practice, and both Dixon (fourth, 224.870 mph) and Franchitti (224.688) were amongst the Top 10 drivers in the session.

Dixon hasn’t won at Indy since 2008, but has come very close recently with Top 5 results (fifth, fifth, second) in his last three “500” appearances. He is also bolstered by his team’s rally last year, which saw Franchitti and himself finish first and second on Race Day after they and the entire Honda camp appeared to be written off as threats after a dismal Pole Day (only one Honda-powered driver cracked the Fast Nine in 2012).

“I think starting mid-pack is not a total downer,” said Dixon. “I think our pace has been pretty soft for the two weeks, and we’ve definitely got some work to do, but last year, we still turned it around from a similar position. Fingers crossed, we’ll keep trying.”

It wouldn’t be wise to count out the New Zealander come Sunday.

Raikkonen learned “pretty much nothing” in Sochi practice

xxxx during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 9, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.
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Kimi Raikkonen made no secret of his frustration following practice for the Russian Grand Prix on Friday after losing the majority of the day’s running at the Sochi Autodrom.

A diesel spill on the track ahead of the first free practice session cost the field 30 minutes of running, while heavy rain made much of FP2 a fruitless exercise.

Speaking after Friday’s sessions, Raikkonen admitted that Ferrari had learned very little due to the conditions, but said that the team will try to make the best of the situation.

“Today the weather conditions were not very nice,” Raikkonen said. “We could not get much running and we learned pretty much nothing.

“The first practice was dry, but at the beginning of the session there was an issue with the tarmac surface and they had to wash it away. So we lost time and when we got to the track some parts were still wet.

“In the second session, the weather turned out to be a bit tricky and it rained most of the time. It’s one of those days you do absolutely nothing but that’s how it goes.

“It was not ideal today but it was the same for everybody. Hopefully tomorrow it will be dry, and we’ll see how the tires work. We’ll do our normal program and try to make the best out of it.”

Teammate Sebastian Vettel finished third in FP1 and second in FP2, but thinks he may struggle to find any rhythm ahead of qualifying on Saturday after losing most of today’s running.

“Today we did learn a few things, but nothing that we can really use for the weekend,” Vettel said. “The first impression of the car is good, but I can’t really say a lot more as we really didn’t get enough track action today.

“This morning we couldn’t drive much as some of the corners were covered with diesel fuel, and it took a while to clean it all up. In the afternoon it started raining, but tomorrow and Sunday it is supposed to be dry!

“In general, it won’t be easy to get into the right rhythm, as the track tomorrow will feel the same like yesterday – that is, green and with poor grip. Usually, you use the Friday to lay some rubber down, but that was not possible today.”

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra this weekend. For full broadcast details, click here.

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.