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).

Plans for Alonso sports car debut in Rolex 24 gathering speed

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Plans for McLaren Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso to appear in next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona are gathering speed as the two-time World Champion angles for a drive at Le Mans in 2018.

Alonso announced on Thursday he had signed a new, multi-year deal to remain with McLaren in F1, but has left the door open to continue his pursuit of the Triple Crown of Motorsport and become just the second driver in history to complete it.

Alonso has won the Monaco Grand Prix twice and made his Indianapolis 500 debut this year, retiring with an engine issue, and has made no secret of his ambition to race at Le Mans one day.

With no date clashes, the possibility exists for Alonso to race at Le Mans in 2018, potentially with Toyota in the LMP1 class following McLaren’s split with Honda.

However, Alonso could make his 24-hour race debut five months earlier, with reports emerging on Thursday that he could be in line to appear in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

First reported by Sportscar365, Alonso could be set to race for McLaren executive director Zak Brown’s team, United Autosports, at Daytona in January, with no clashes existing with his F1 commitments.

Alonso remained coy when asked about the chances of him appearing at Daytona, but admitted additional preparation for a possible Le Mans appearance would be of interest.

“For the Indy 500 it was a nice experience, I felt very competitive but it was a big challenge that I took from zero, from no testing, not any similar race before it,” Alonso said, as quoted by Reuters.

“If I want to prepare Le Mans, maybe there are other possibilities to prepare Le Mans a little bit better than I prepared the Indy 500.”

He added more about his other race program in Thursday’s pre-race Paddock Pass episode, speaking to NBCSN. “To be the best driver in the world you have to win in different series at different times. It’s possible I can compete in different races next year,” he said.

Brown said he would be happy to field Alonso at Daytona, and confirmed their pair had already loosely discussed it.

“If Fernando wants to do Daytona and we have a seat available, we would put his name on it happily,” Brown said.

“We’ve started joking around about it, and we saw where jokes got us last time,” he added, referencing the eventual entry to the Indy 500.

United Autosports will field two JS P217 cars at Daytona in January, and has already confirmed ex-F1 racer Paul di Resta, McLaren junior Lando Norris, American endurance racer Will Owen and Danish youngster Philip Hanson in seats.

McLaren reserve and 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button had been linked with a drive for United Autosports at Daytona, but Brown confirmed to Sportscar365 this was no longer an option.

“Jenson won’t be driving for us. I don’t know what he’s going to be doing,” Brown said.

“I thought he was going to be in the Penske car. Not sure what happened there.”