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.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.