Steven Holcomb,Steven Langton

IndyCar engineer contributes to U.S. bobsled squad

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An open-wheeled IndyCar and a streamlined bobsled may seem worlds apart, but for David Cripps – a former engineer for IndyCar Series team Panther Racing that’s now helping the U.S. bobsled team in Sochi – his new job isn’t much different from his old one.

“My responsibilities are very similar to an IndyCar race engineer. I am basically responsible for the performance, reliability, development and day-to-day running of the sleds,” Cripps told IndyCar’s official website ahead of training runs in Russia. “There has been a fairly large amount of development upgrades coming up to the Games.”

Cripps knows a thing or two about making things go fast. He helped take Panther’s No. 4 National Guard Honda (now Chevrolet) to four consecutive runner-up finishes in the Indianapolis 500 from 2008-2011 with three different drivers – Vitor Meira (2008), late two-time “500″ champion Dan Wheldon (2009-10), and American racer J.R. Hildebrand (2011).

And he’s not the only IndyCar Series link to the U.S. bobsled effort. Another team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan, has provided steering upgrades for six of the team’s two-man sleds.

Steven Holcomb and Co. will be searching for the first U.S. Olympic medal in the two-man competition since 1952 in addition to trying to defend their four-man gold from Vancouver in 2010.

Cripps’ move into the world of winter sports began after leading a tour of Panther’s garage at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park in 2012 for officials from USA Luge. That led to Panther installing telemetry on one of the luge sleds for a test in early 2013 at Lake Placid, New York.

Then, after officially parting ways with Panther last June, Cripps became a permanent member of the U.S. team through the Olympics. So far, he’s enjoyed what he calls the “invigorating challenge” that’s come with learning a new form of racing.

“So far, this has been an amazing adventure and the best is yet to come,” he added. “It truly has been an honor to work with such an amazing group of athletes and coaches. Their level of effort and dedication is commendable. I think we will be assembling one of the strongest pit crews ever for this year’s Indy 500.”

The bobsled competition begins Feb. 16 at the Sanki Sliding Center, with medal events on Feb. 17 (two-man), Feb. 19 (women’s), and Feb. 23 (four-man). As for the IndyCars, they’ll return to NBCSN on Apr. 13 with their second race of the season, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

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.

Williams maximizes wet setup work despite limited running in Sochi

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With action pretty much limited in both practice sessions due to the diesel spillage in free practice one and rain in free practice two for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, teams could only do limited wet-weather runs.

Williams Martini Racing tried to make the best of the circumstances, as one of only five teams that completed laps in FP2 (McLaren, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Ferrari) with eight cars.

Felipe Massa led second practice but it was an essentially meaningless session.

“It was quite a stunted session today which stopped us from completing all of the work we wanted to,” said Rob Smedley, Williams’ head of vehicle performance. “We had planned to run in the wet but we had a strange situation this afternoon in that half of the circuit was much wetter than the other half which made most of the tests null and void.

“We have been working on the wet set-up of the car and so wanted to get out at the end of FP2 to see the progress we have made. In a similar vein to our low speed corner work in Singapore, we seem to be making progress. We got through all of the bits and pieces we wanted to get through in terms of control systems and power unit set-up, and we have to go into tomorrow with a good plan for FP3 to get the car set-up for qualifying and the race.”

Valtteri Bottas finished third in Sochi a year ago, while Massa seeks a rebound after a fuel flow issue in qualifying resigned him to a Q1 elimination and an 11th place finish.