IndyCar: Munoz’s third 2014 podium extends rookie points lead

Leave a comment

While the rest of his Andretti Autosport teammates hit issues in Sunday’s Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco, Carlos Munoz bagged his third podium finish of his first full season in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The Colombian ended third after a solid all-around weekend in Pocono.

Additionally, the driver of the No. 34 Cinsay/AndrettiTV.com Honda kept up with Team Penske teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves as the only two driver to score top-five finishes in both 500-mile races this season (Munoz was fourth at the Indianapolis 500).

This Sunday was actually a fairly straightforward drive for Munoz, who started and finished third on a day when he didn’t need to perform any of his usual heroics and crazy corner lines to keep in podium contention. Case in point, Munoz never led, but he never ran worse than sixth at any point in the 200-lap race.

“This track, it’s really hard to pass, to be behind the cars,” said Munoz. “I think third place is a great result for the championship, especially with the double points. I’m really happy with a podium. It was a long race, and I think that this time, I raced like a veteran. My Cinsay crew guys did such a great job, great pit stops, and I’m happy with another podium.”

Teammates Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe both were tagged with speeding penalties and rebounded to unrepresentative ninth and 12th, while Ryan Hunter-Reay’s post-Indianapolis 500 run of poor luck continued with a broken suspension that took him out of play. The No. 28 DHL Honda returned to the track to finish 18th.

Hunter-Reay is still top of the Andretti quartet in points, now fifth on 388 points. Munoz and Andretti are sixth and seventh with Hinchcliffe 12th.

Munoz’s rookie points lead is now 77 over Mikhail Aleshin, who sits 13th in the standings. Jack Hawksworth still got eight points despite failing to start the race following his practice accident, while Carlos Huertas sits 17th and just three behind Hawksworth in 16th.

Schmidt Peterson confirms all-Canadian lineup of Hinchcliffe, Wickens

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team is going for a diet of denim, maple syrup, pace and politeness in its 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series lineup, with an all-Canadian pairing of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens confirmed for next season.

Hinchcliffe was known to want a driver of Wickens’ caliber alongside him in the second seat after three less-than-fruitful seasons with James Jakes (2015), Mikhail Aleshin (2016) and a combination of drivers (Aleshin, Sebastian Saavedra, Jack Harvey) rotated through the second car the last three years.

Recent changes have brought them to this point and now leads them to becoming full-time teammates for the first time in a decade, since the defunct country-focused A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008.

Hinchcliffe has re-signed with Schmidt Peterson after three seasons with the team. His first was shortened due to his near life-threatening injuries sustained in an accident in practice for that year’s Indianapolis 500. A rapid and welcome recovery followed throughout the second half of 2015 before his comeback to action in 2016, with an Indianapolis 500 pole and a couple near-misses on wins that followed. In 2017, he won Round 2 at Long Beach but faltered in the second half of the year through a litany of mechanical woes and bad luck.

Wickens, meanwhile, faced an uncertain future when Mercedes-Benz announced earlier this year it would withdraw from DTM at the end of 2018. One of Hinchcliffe’s long-time friends, Wickens hasn’t raced full-time in North America in more than a decade since they were both in Formula Atlantic in 2007, at separate teams (Wickens at Red Bull Forsythe Racing and Hinchcliffe at Sierra Sierra Enterprises). As he pursued his Formula 1 dream and had a wealth of success in the junior series, he never got a proper shot, and has since gone onto several successful years with Mercedes in DTM.

A ride-swap between the two of them came together earlier this year where Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda at Sebring’s short course, while Hinchcliffe then flew to Italy to sample Wickens’ Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM after the St. Petersburg season opener. Hinchcliffe ended 13th in points in IndyCar, Wickens ninth in DTM this year, both with one win each during the year. Wickens also had a Friday to sample the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda at Road America this year, but had to relinquish the seat once Aleshin returned from a visa issue.

“Not only am I really excited to be able to say I’ll be back with SPM for next year and beyond, but I am also really looking forward to being teammates with one of my oldest friends,” said Hinchcliffe.

“Robbie and I grew up racing against one another, eventually took different paths, me staying in North America in open-wheel cars and him going off to Europe in sports cars, but it’s pretty neat that we both ended up here and we get to live our dream of being professional racing drivers, together on the same team.

“I think 2018 is going to be a great year for the SPM organization, from having Robbie here to the team’s new partnership with Honda and the 2018 aero kit; I just can’t wait to get back on track and bring some good results home for the Arrow Electronics crew.”

Wickens added: “This is an entirely new chapter to add to my racing career, and I am really excited for this opportunity that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has given me.

“I think everyone knows the story by now that James and I grew up racing against one another in go karts, and to make it to the largest open-wheel racing series in North America together as teammates, it’s crazy to think about.

“I am very thankful for the six years I had with everyone at Mercedes and DTM; those are memories I will cherish forever. I can’t wait to truly see what the Verizon IndyCar Series is all about!”