(Photo courtesy GregAndersonRacing.net)

Four-time NHRA Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson to miss first three months of season

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In a surprise announcement, four-time NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson will sit out the first three months of the 2014 season due to health-related reasons, according to NHRA.com.

Anderson, 52, of Mooresville, N.C., will undergo heart surgery in the coming days to repair a heart condition that he’s had since birth. He is expected to miss the first six races of the season.

“It’s really not a big deal,” Anderson told NHRA.com. “I was born with a bicuspid aortic heart valve (two valve openings instead of three). It’s something we’ve kept track of over the years, and my doctor has decided it’s time to make some repairs so I stay in good shape.

“I will miss the first few races of the season, but once the doctor says I’m good to go, I’m gonna be right back at it looking for another Pro Stock championship.”

Although Anderson will be sidelined, his Summit Racing Equipment/KB Racing Camaro will not, as eight-time FIA European Drag Racing Pro Stock champ Jimmy Alund will campaign the car in Anderson’s absence.

The new season opens Feb. 6-9 with the annual 54th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

A native of Sweden, Alund is one of the most dominating drag racers in Europe, having won the Pro Stock championship eight times in the last 10 seasons (2004 through 2009, 2011 and 2013). En route to last year’s championship, he won five of the last six races and also set that continent’s Pro Stock elapsed time (6.534 seconds) and speed (213.31 mph) records in the quarter-mile.

Ironically enough, Alund’s championship winning car last season had a KB Racing motor under the hood, so he already has a familiarity about the type of horsepower he’ll be trying to reign in while driving Anderson’s car.

“I’m really honored to be a part of this organization,” Alund told NHRA.com. “I have some big shoes to fill — Greg is one of the best Pro Stock drivers in the world, bar none. I believe that I’m up to the challenge, though. I’m looking forward to helping KB Racing win another championship.”

This will mark Alund’s second stint on the U.S.-based NHRA national tour, having competed in several Pro Stock events during the 2010 season.

“In the U.S., you are running against the best of the best,” Alund said. “After all, this is the home of drag racing, so you expect that. We don’t race full-time in Europe like the Pro teams do here, but racing is racing — we are just as competitive as the racers in America. This is a great opportunity for me to show that to American race fans.”

Alund’s first two qualifying attempts to make the Winternationals field will take place Friday, Feb. 7.

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.