Beyond RHR, Munoz and Andretti both score second straight top-10 at Barber

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Ryan Hunter-Reay was the top finishing Andretti Autosport driver Sunday in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, in his No. 28 DHL Honda, but his two teammates added to the overall results haul Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park.

Carlos Munoz (No. 26 Cinsay/AndrettiTV.com Honda) and Marco Andretti (No. 27 Snapple Honda) each followed up their top-10 results at Long Beach last week with near identical results this week, to give Andretti Autosport a perfect three-for-three in top-10s on the day.

Granted, while lower top-10 results aren’t the goal, and while a higher finish for Andretti was certainly possible, both Munoz and Andretti flew under the radar once again en route to their results.

Munoz started 22nd in the 23-car Verizon IndyCar Series field but advanced as high as eighth, primarily on the pit stop sequence, in his first stint before pitting on Lap 22.

A short-fill and a second stop on Lap 35 positioned him well to make it home on just one more stop from there, which he took on Lap 63, the same lap as race winner Josef Newgarden.

Munoz made it up to seventh by Lap 70, when most of the leaders completed their final round of stops, and gained a further position to sixth when Helio Castroneves needed a splash of fuel with two laps remaining.

“I think sixth for me is like a victory today. I mean I always want to win, but this sixth feels so good because of how we started the weekend,” Munoz said in a team release.

“Starting 22nd at Barber (Motorsports Park), it is really hard to make your way to the front. My team did a great job – in pit stops, in strategy. I think I did a great job at saving fuel; I’m more or less a rookie at saving fuel, but I think now I have my ‘saving fuel degree’ from university (haha). Now I’m looking forward to the next one.”

Andretti recorded his third top-10 finish in four races to open the year on a similar strategy. Stops on Laps 15, 35 and 63 positioned him for a top-10 result, and a last lap pass of Luca Filippi for 10th completed the day’s work. Still, he felt things could have gone better.

“I lost too much time early in the stint to (Scott) Dixon and Ryan (Hunter-Reay); I had a go at Dixon… I got pushed off the track, so we lost a lot of track position,” said Andretti, who at one point made a dynamic outside pass of his teammate on Lap 25 for sixth place.

“I lost a lot of time, really, in that stint trying to conserve (fuel). I need to get better at managing, but we were losing the rear tires, so it was a real struggle.”

Munoz, Hunter-Reay and Andretti now rank 11th, 12th and 13th this season in the points standings heading into the month of May.

As the defending Indianapolis 500 champion team, and a team that has had an excellent setup at Indianapolis each of the last two years, it will be interesting to watch theirs and Honda’s progression into the month of May.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”