This offseason, F1 and NASCAR are doing what’s needed to stay in the news

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Formula One and NASCAR didn’t get to be where they are today by standing still. Key moves, acquisitions and decisions have helped move each major motorsports organization to the top of the respective motorsport heaps over several decades.

Even now, as both stand on the precipice of controversial potential new changes, they have already succeeded in one area: getting people talking about them.

F1 is set for a radically different 2014. The raft of sweeping new regulations, with V6 power units, adjusted car designs and permanent driver numbers are set to transition the sport from its last era that ended in the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix. Even now, the upcoming Bernie Ecclestone bribery trial may have ramifications from a leadership standpoint for the sport down the road.

But one idea that has already been outlined and elicited a visceral, negative reaction from fans, observers and media members is that of double points for the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. In brief, it seems an answer to a question no-one asked and doesn’t solve some of the major issues facing the sport, namely high, unsustainable costs that are affecting most of the grid. It also creates the slippery slope of making a single Grand Prix more valuable, points-wise, than any other.

NASCAR seems to be heading down a similar, treacherous road with possible eliminations in the Chase, which itself was already a creation for the prior system that existed until 2003. No formal announcement has been made, but a change could be announced later this month after the Charlotte Observer broke the news last night.

These points changes could be overreactions to dominant forces, test balloons to gauge fan interest/disinterest, or simply the steps of sanctioning bodies working to keep themselves in the news during a slow period in the racing calendar.

There isn’t much to talk about with neither series having raced yet – NASCAR has only had a few days of testing at Daytona and F1’s first test isn’t until January 28 at Jerez, Spain – so these are ways for the series to stay in the news without referring to the competition aspect of their sports.

Meanwhile, IndyCar could potentially take a page from this. It’s had great competition on track each of the first two years since the Dallara DW12 package was introduced with engine competition back from Honda and Chevrolet. This past year had 10 race winners, 20 different podium finishers and the championship was decided at the last race on its pure, season-long points system between two or more drivers for the eighth consecutive season (dating to 2006).

But, I’ll use a quote from a piece I read earlier this week from ESPN.com’s John Oreovicz, regarding IndyCar’s biggest news story at the moment:

“The fact that the biggest story the series has to trumpet is Tony Kanaan receiving his trophy for a race he won seven months ago speaks volumes about the predicament Indy car racing finds itself in,” Oreovicz wrote of TK receiving his Baby Borg, with one also awarded as a surprise to son Leo.

Getting people talking – for positive or negative reasons – is key to success in a crowded sports and entertainment landscape. Particularly so during your series’ respective offseason. It’s why we’ve had so much from the merged TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and new FIA Formula E to recap this offseason as well.

Stagnation and complacency, on the other hand, fails to keep the news cycle moving.

F1 and NASCAR may not be right with their potential points alterations, but they are getting necessary ink and web space utilized regarding the ideas. The intrigue of what comes next with the decisions only serves to move the story along further.

Carlos Munoz back at Andretti Autosport for 2018 Indy 500

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After posting two runner-up finishes and three top-five results in four starts with Andretti Autosport at the Indianapolis 500, Colombian Carlos Munoz will come home to the team as its sixth driver in the 2018 race. He’ll instantly vault into win contention, given his pedigree at the Speedway and joining Andretti’s team that has won three of the last four ‘500s there.

Munoz raced full-time with Andretti Autosport from 2014 through 2016. While he scored his first career win at Detroit race one in 2015, and was series rookie of the year in 2014, it’s his runner-up results as a race rookie in 2013 and again in the 2016 race to teammate Alexander Rossi that loom largest.

Now, Munoz, who spent a single season at A.J. Foyt Enterprises before both he and Conor Daly were not retained for a second year, will join Andretti’s full-season quartet of Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Zach Veach along with previously announced fifth driver Stefan Wilson.

This will add another confirmed Honda entry to next year’s race. Honda has 12 full-season entries expected among Andretti’s four cars, then two apiece from the Ganassi, Rahal Letterman Lanigan, Schmidt Peterson and Coyne teams.

That number grows with Andretti’s two extra cars, and the combination of the SPM/Michael Shank car for Jack Harvey to confirm at least 15 Hondas for the 2018 Indianapolis 500. Honda has traditionally capped its number of entries at 18 cars.

The full release is below.

A familiar face will make its way back to the Andretti Autosport stable for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race as Carlos Muñoz returns to the team, vying for his chance to kiss the bricks.

Muñoz made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut with Andretti Autosport at the 2013 Indianapolis 500, where he finished second, earning himself Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honors. The Colombian-native went on to compete full time with the team the following year. In 2016, Muñoz once again finished runner-up when his rookie teammate, Alexander Rossi, crossed the Yard of Bricks on a fuel-saving strategy to win the 100th Indy 500.

“I am very excited to be a part of Andretti Autosport again,” said Muñoz. “The team has been like family to me since day one, when I joined them five years ago to race Indy Lights. We have been so close to winning the Indy 500 – twice with the team – so I am especially excited to be back for that race and hopefully we will have a good result this year. I need to thank Michael [Andretti] and J-F [Thormann] for believing in me and wanting me to back in their car for the Indy 500. I am also excited to be back with my teammates, and I think we will continue to work really well together. We have six cars, so hopefully we will have a strong team working with the new [aero kit]. I am really looking forward to it – hopefully we can finally get that win we’ve been so close to.”

Muñoz will look to pick up where he left off with Andretti Autosport and add to the team’s historical success at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The team mirror’s Muñoz’s enthusiasm and is excited to have secured its complete lineup before the new year.

“We’re thrilled to have Carlos back in an Andretti car for the Indy 500,” said Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti. “There is no denying that Carlos has talent at [Indianapolis Motor Speedway], he’s finished runner-up twice and that has fueled his determination to get to victory lane. He has already built relationships with his teammates and many of those on our crew, so it should be a seamless process for our six cars when they head out for the first time together.”

The veteran driver has built a resume that consists of 70 Verizon IndyCar Series starts, one win (Detroit Race 1, 2015), one pole position (Texas, 2016) and seven podiums. Muñoz competed under the Andretti shield from 2013 to 2016 and finished 17th in the 2017 IndyCar season.

Andretti Autosport has collected five Indianapolis 500 victories (Wheldon/’05, Franchitti/’06, Hunter-Reay/’14, Rossi/’16, Sato/’17) and seeks to become only the second team to earn three consecutive Indy 500 wins. Muñoz will join teammates Rossi, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Zach Veach and Stefan Wilson on opening day in May for the team’s six-car effort.