Details as to why E.J. Viso was taken out of his Andretti Autosport seat for this weekend’s IZOD IndyCar Series season finale still remain murky at best. Viso did tweet late Friday, “Wishing the best to @CarlosMunoz026 driving my car this weekend. Trying my best to recover from food poisoning. So frustrated.”
But regardless of what the situation was, the team still had to figure out a backup plan, and had the best possible choice ready to go with its Indy Lights driver Carlos Munoz.
Munoz now has the unique opportunity of being a Colombian driver stepping into the No. 5 Team Venezuela/Andretti Autosport/HVM Chevrolet. Additionally, he’s the only driver of the 38 who have started an IndyCar race this year to have driven three different cars (Nos. 26 and 5 for Andretti, No. 4 for Panther Racing).
It’s the second time he’s been called on as a replacement driver this year, having also filled in for the injured Ryan Briscoe at Toronto Race 2 for Panther Racing. The situations, however, could not have been more different.
“It’s a totally different situation actually,” Munoz explained to me after qualifying. “The first practice here was really tough and difficult after Indy lights. It’s a different track, with different line to run, so you’re trying to learn that. Toronto was the day of race and I had a morning warmup. But I think rookie drivers struggle more on the ovals.”
It was interesting to hear Munoz say that because the Colombian dominated the Indy Lights race here a year ago. But, IndyCar and Indy Lights are about as similar at Fontana as are apples and oranges.
Munoz now has the unintentional bonus of being the second straight Andretti Autosport driver to do the 600 miles of Indianapolis and Fontana in the same year, following Sebastian Saavedra last year. But, he agreed these are totally different situations as well.
He qualified 14th on Friday and should move up at least two more spots on the grid with 10-grid spot engine penalties to Scott Dixon (seventh) and Josef Newgarden (10th) to be enforced.
In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.
Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.
Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.
The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.
“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”
Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.
SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.
When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.
SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.
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