Budweiser Duel

Green flag approaching for tonight’s Budweiser Duel 150s at Daytona

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The clock is ticking down for tonight’s Budweiser Twin 150 Duels at Daytona International Speedway.

The first Duel takes the green flag at 7 pm ET. The second Duel will follow shortly after the completion of the first race.

Each race is 60 laps and each contains a 24-car field.

This year’s Duels is noteworthy as it will mark the first time in the history of the twin exhibition races that they will be held under the lights at night, making three events during this year’s Speedweeks that have or will be in prime time. The others were last Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited, won by Denny Hamlin, and Friday’s Camping World Trucks Series season opener.

Five drivers will ultimately not make the 43-car field for Sunday’s 56th Daytona 500. Dave Blaney withdrew earlier Thursday and will not make this year’s 500.

Here’s the field breakdown and starting positions:

Budweiser Duel No. 1

1. Austin Dillon

2. Greg Biffle

3.  Ryan Newman

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

6. Marcos Ambrose

7. Aric Almirola

8. Joey Logano

9. Matt Kenseth

10. Kasey Kahne

11. Kyle Busch

12. Kevin Harvick

13. Danica Patrick

14. AJ Allmendinger

15. Reed Sorenson

16. David Gilliland

17. Parker Kligerman

18. Tony Stewart

19. Brian Vickers

20. Cole Whitt

21. Michael McDowell

22. Josh Wise

23. Joe Nemechek

24. Alex Bowman

Budweiser Duel No. 2

1. Martin Truex Jr.

2. Carl Edwards

3. Brad Keselowski

4. Jeff Gordon
5. Paul Menard

6. Brian Scott

7. Jimmie Johnson

8. Casey Mears

9. Michael Annett

10. Clint Bowyer

11. Denny Hamlin

12. Kyle Larson

13. Trevor Bayne

14. Kurt Busch

15. Justin Allgaier

16. Landon Cassill

17. Michael Waltrip

18. Eric McClure

19. Jamie McMurray

20. David Ragan

21. Terry Labonte

22. Bobby Labonte

23. Ryan Truex

24. Morgan Shepherd

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.