IndyCar: Title rivals versus potential new winners round out Mid-Ohio Fast Six

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Behind polesitter Sebastien Bourdais, the rest of the Firestone Fast Six for Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) features a mix of drivers who need a win for championship purposes with a few who could play spoiler.

Starting second and matching a career-best start is Josef Newgarden, in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda. Meanwhile in fourth is Carlos Munoz, in the No. 34 Cinsay/ Honda, in his first Mid-Ohio IndyCar start. Both of the young chargers seek their first career wins.

Meanwhile Tony Kanaan looks for his first Mid-Ohio win, first win of the season, the Chip Ganassi Racing team’s first win of the season and sixth in a row at Mid-Ohio in the No. 10 Glad Chevrolet. TK rolls off P3.

Row 3 is a key row with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power each needing a win for championship purposes.

“It needs to be wins,” said RHR, driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda. “We’re not settling for fifths.”

Hunter-Reay has been the dominant driver this weekend in practice but will need to make up ground on Power and Helio Castroneves (who starts 15th).

Munoz, who looks to join RHR as race winners for Andretti Autosport this year, has been impressive this weekend as he looks to add to his score of three podiums this season.

“I really like it here,” said the young Colombian rookie. “I’ve felt fast and comfortable. It’s my first Fast Six of the season. I think strategy will count a lot.”

Newgarden and Kanaan took advantage of optimizing their setup in the wet conditions.

“The rain helped spread everyone out,” Newgarden explained. “We were bad last year. We had no handle on things. This year we have a better package, and in qualifying we handled the traffic much better.”

We’ll see whether any of these five is able to take the win on Sunday, to surpass Bourdais on pole and leave points leader Castroneves out to dry.

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.