Ryan Hunter-Reay

After 2013 near-miss, Hunter-Reay confident ahead of this year’s Indy 500

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It seems like Ryan Hunter-Reay has been overlooked somewhat going into Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 and it’s a bit strange to wonder why that’s the case considering that he almost won the whole thing last year.

The American came close to drinking the milk, but was jumped on a restart with three laps to go by both race winner Tony Kanaan and Carlos Munoz before a crash triggered a yellow and caused him to finish in third place.

Hunter-Reay will roll off 19th for Sunday’s race after a sub-par qualifying session, but believes that his piece for Sunday is capable of delivering so much more.

“There’s a bit of a gut feeling,” he said today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I do feel pretty confident in the car I have under me for sure. We weren’t too happy with the qualifying effort, but the race car is awesome.”

If so, Hunter-Reay will have the chance to end a hectic Month of May on a high.

He and the rest of the IndyCar contingent have had to prepare for and race the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road course, then go into ‘500’ practice and qualifying immediately after. And the day following qualifying, they had to go back into their cars again for a special practice session designed to have teams focus on race set-up.

“I think that was the most consecutive days that I’ve strapped myself into a race car,” Hunter-Reay said. “I think it was almost two weeks in total. For sure, there were some stressful times…It’s been busy and the crew’s been busy as well – it’s just been non-stop, so we’re looking forward to Sunday and just getting the main show on with it.”

Like many of the other drivers, Hunter-Reay is counting on the draft to play a major role in Sunday’s outcome. However, there is the matter of warmer temperatures for this year’s running, which could have a notable impact on equipment.

“Being 20 degrees warmer ambient this year should play a factor in handling of the race cars, so you might see that come into play,” he said. “I’m not quite sure though. One thing’s for sure – these cars punch a big hole in the air and create a massive draft. And I think everybody’s going to be nose to tail for a while.”

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.