Munoz: Fontana draft in versus Toronto a “totally different” situation

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Details as to why E.J. Viso was taken out of his Andretti Autosport seat for this weekend’s IZOD IndyCar Series season finale still remain murky at best. Viso did tweet late Friday, “Wishing the best to @CarlosMunoz026 driving my car this weekend. Trying my best to recover from food poisoning. So frustrated.”

But regardless of what the situation was, the team still had to figure out a backup plan, and had the best possible choice ready to go with its Indy Lights driver Carlos Munoz.

Munoz now has the unique opportunity of being a Colombian driver stepping into the No. 5 Team Venezuela/Andretti Autosport/HVM Chevrolet. Additionally, he’s the only driver of the 38 who have started an IndyCar race this year to have driven three different cars (Nos. 26 and 5 for Andretti, No. 4 for Panther Racing).

It’s the second time he’s been called on as a replacement driver this year, having also filled in for the injured Ryan Briscoe at Toronto Race 2 for Panther Racing. The situations, however, could not have been more different.

“It’s a totally different situation actually,” Munoz explained to me after qualifying. “The first practice here was really tough and difficult after Indy lights. It’s a different track, with different line to run, so you’re trying to learn that. Toronto was the day of race and I had a morning warmup. But I think rookie drivers struggle more on the ovals.”

It was interesting to hear Munoz say that because the Colombian dominated the Indy Lights race here a year ago. But, IndyCar and Indy Lights are about as similar at Fontana as are apples and oranges.

Munoz now has the unintentional bonus of being the second straight Andretti Autosport driver to do the 600 miles of Indianapolis and Fontana in the same year, following Sebastian Saavedra last year. But, he agreed these are totally different situations as well.

He qualified 14th on Friday and should move up at least two more spots on the grid with 10-grid spot engine penalties to Scott Dixon (seventh) and Josef Newgarden (10th) to be enforced.

Leclerc: No. 16 was third-choice for Formula 1 career

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2018 Formula 1 rookie Charles Leclerc has revealed No. 16 was his third-choice number to use through his grand prix career, with his preferred options having already been taken.

From 2014, drivers were given the chance to pick a number to use through their F1 careers instead of being assigned one depending on their team’s championship position.

Formula 2 champion and Ferrari junior Leclerc was announced in an Alfa Romeo Sauber race seat for 2018 earlier this month, picking No. 16 as his permanent number.

However, the Monegasque racer revealed last week that it was in fact his third choice, with both No. 7 and No. 10 already being taken by Kimi Raikkonen and Pierre Gasly respectively.

“It’s quite simple to be honest: I wanted number 7 first, but Kimi had it,” Leclerc said, as quoted by Crash.net.

“Then I chose 10, but Pierre came to F1 and chose number 10, so then I chose number 16.

“It’s just my date of birth and I could not find anything better. And 1 + 6 = 7, which is my favorite number.”

Leclerc will become the first driver hailing from Monaco to race in F1 since Olivier Beretta, who made nine grand prix starts in 1994 for Larrousse.