Sole focus on Indy Lights likely for Munoz the rest of 2013

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For the moment, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 rookie-of-the-year Carlos Munoz is focusing exclusively on Firestone Indy Lights, and winning that championship. It’s doubtful at the moment the Andretti Autosport driver will make any additional IndyCar starts this year.

“We have the same conclusion as everyone: that the main goal is the championship of Indy Lights,” Munoz said Tuesday in a teleconference. “The team needs it, I need it, because the prize that Indy Lights gives you is quite important for the next year and everything.

“I need to have a championship. Also to have a championship also is motivate you for the mind mentally to move up,” he added. “For the team, Michael, the whole Andretti team, everybody wants to win this championship in Indy Lights because it’s been a lot of year without winning it. So they really think they have a shot to do it and they want me to win the championship, and focus next year on a full-time season in IndyCar.”

Munoz’s second season has been an improvement from his first.

“We prefer to do a really good season, with the pre-season test, good testing and everything. It’s racing. When you are with a good team, you have to go out and win. You don’t have the excuse the car was good. This is racing, so since the beginning you have to be really strong, no?”

In years past, Andretti has rolled out an extra car toward the end of the season to complement their full-season roster of drivers. Franck Montagny (2009, Sonoma), Adam Carroll (2010, Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio), and Sebastian Saavedra (2012, Sonoma and Fontana), have all raced a jointly-entered AFS/Andretti Autosport car with the support of Gary Peterson.

“We’re trying to work for Sonoma, but I don’t think it will happen,” said Munoz. “They want me really to concentrate on the Indy Lights. All the races Michael say, ‘Concentrate, concentrate Indy Lights.’ That’s what I’m doing now.”

Munoz is locked in a tight battle with Sage Karam for the Lights title. Karam’s back-to-back wins for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at Milwaukee and Iowa vaulted him into the championship lead, but Munoz now heads the American rookie by four points (285-281).

Counting Toronto this weekend, just five races remain in the Indy Lights season. The field grows back to nine with Matthew Di Leo, an 18-year-old owner/driver of Innisfil, Ontario, making his second start of 2013 (Long Beach).

Dodge to celebrate 50th anniversary of Hemi motor at NHRA U.S. Nationals

Photo courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
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When this year’s NHRA U.S. Nationals plays out from August 29 through September 3 at Indianapolis Raceway Park, a lot of folks are going to be channeling one of the most famous lines in motorsports:

“Hey, that thing got a Hemi?”

Dodge and parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Thursday – on National Hemi Day, no less – announced that it will celebrate the Hemi’s 50th anniversary of Super Stock cars with the 18th annual Dodge Hemi Challenge during the U.S. Nationals.

Cars that will take part in the Challenge will be 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda cars – “The most iconic of the Mopar package cars,” touted a Dodge press release – in a head-to-head battle.

The Dart and Barracuda were purpose built for use solely on a drag strip. The 23 entrants in the Challenge will drive their personally owned versions of the ’68 ‘Cuda and Dart.

The winner of the Challenge – which will be held August 30-31 – will take home a $15,000 purse, while cash rewards will be available for all 16 drivers that qualify for final eliminations.

“The Dodge brand is proud to serve as title sponsor of the NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge, an event that spotlights the legacy and power of the 426 HEMI engine,” said Steve Beahm, Head of Passenger Cars, Dodge//SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA North America.

Beahm added, “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda Super Stock cars that debuted back in 1968 and are still competing today, which makes our support of this edition of the HEMI Challenge extra special.”

One special incentive for contestants is the 42.6-pound NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge trophy, created in the spirit of the 426 (cubic inch) HEMI engine.

Jimmy Daniels has won the Challenge the last two years and goes for a three-peat in this year’s race within a race. His father, Jim Daniels, won the race in 2010.

The Challenge’s all-time winningest driver is Charlie Westcott Jr. of Parma, Michigan, who captured the Challenge in six different years: 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

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