Formula Renault 3.5 veteran Carlos Huertas to test for Panther

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Panther Racing has announced that Colombian Formula Renault 3.5 racer Carlos Huertas will be behind the wheel of their No. 4 Chevrolet (pictured, from last year) during Friday’s Chevy manufacturer test at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.

Huertas, 22, earned his first career win in FR3.5 last season at Motorland Aragon in Spain en route to a 14th place finish in the 2013 championship for Carlin Motorsport. He first competed in the category in 2012.

The Bogota native has also raced in Formula BMW and British Formula Three.

“This is an awesome opportunity for me, and Panther Racing is a quality team,” Huertas said in a team release. “It’s been good to get to know the crew, and we’ve been working hard to prepare for Friday. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and ready to get out on track.”

In his own thoughts, team owner John Barnes said that Huertas carried “a lot of potential.”

“He’s been impressive racing [Formula Renault 3.5] over the past couple of years,” he said. “We’re looking forward to getting Carlos behind the wheel and seeing what he can do with the No. 4 car.”

The release states that more details regarding Panther’s 2014 program would be made in the weeks ahead.

Panther is coming off a trying season in which it released J.R. Hildebrand (who had been racing with the team since 2011) after the Indianapolis 500 and had Ryan Briscoe, Oriol Servia and Carlos Munoz split the remainder of the year in their No. 4 car.

Briscoe had been expected to take over the Panther ride for 2014 but because of the team’s unresolved sponsorship situation, he instead has become the fourth driver at Chip Ganassi Racing alongside Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball and Tony Kanaan.

Marvin Musquin’s Indy win may have come too late

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Marvin Musquin answered one question at Indianapolis last week, but the biggest one may well plague him for the next six weeks.

Musquin has won a battle, but can he win the war?

After standing on the podium in eight of the first 10 races, Musquin finally showed the field he was capable of winning in Indy when he grabbed the holeshot and led every lap on the way to Victory Lane. He was never seriously challenged and it was the Musquin that Supercross fans expected to see all season.

It was a long time coming. Musquin must have felt like victory was just around the corner after finishing second in the overall standings in Anaheim II’s Triple Crown race. He was third in the first Main that night and second in the last two Mains.

As it turned out, that single race defined his season until last week. Musquin stood on the podium all night, but he finished two spots behind Cooper Webb in the first Main and was one spot back in the second. It was only as time ran out that he was able to beat Webb by a single spot in the third Main. If Musquin had won either of the first two Mains, he would have had the overall victory – denying Webb his first career win in the process.

Webb’s Anaheim win revitalized the rider and gave him the confidence to rattle off four more wins in the next seven races.

Meanwhile, Musquin scored podium finishes in the next seven races, making him almost perfect. In another season, a record like that would have been enough to give him a comfortable points lead. In 2019, he sit 14 markers out of first, which is the points’ equivalent of the difference between first and 11th in one race. In other words, Webb cannot lose the points lead at Seattle unless he finishes outside the top 10 while his teammate wins.

Looking at the numbers another way the scenario is not quite as hopeless. Musquin needs to shave only 2.3 points off Webb’s lead each week to win the championship. Three points separate first and second. Five points differentiates first from third, which is where Webb finished in Indianapolis. Webb is vulnerable as his 10th-place finish at Glendale and an eighth at San Diego attest.

Those bobbles came early and Webb seems to have forgotten how to make a mistake.

A third-place is Webb’s worst finish in the last six weeks and since Anaheim II when Musquin started his impressive string of podium finishes, Webb has recorded an average finish of 2.2. That came with a worst finish of eighth on an extremely muddy and heavy track in San Diego. Musquin has a worst finish of only sixth, but his average of 2.8 still lags behind Webb.

Worse still, since Anaheim II Musquin has finished behind Webb in every race except for the outlier of San Diego.

It is no longer a question of keeping pressure on Webb. Musquin cannot expect his teammate to make a mistake; he has to find a way to pass him on the track. If Webb adds only two points to his lead at Seattle, Musquin’s fate would no longer be in his hands. He would need to gain 3.2 points per race. With that scenario, Webb could finish one spot behind Musquin every week and still win the championship.