Munoz takes blame, apologizes after Turn 4 crash in St. Pete

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Carlos Munoz finished eighth after starting 12th in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda to kick off the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, but that wasn’t the reason people were talking about him on Sunday in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Munoz contacted Graham Rahal into Turn 4, with the ensuing contact triggering an eight-car “parking lot.”

He was assessed a stop-and-go penalty for avoidable contact but even despite that, didn’t lose further positions than 14th and rebounded to end eighth for the day.

“We were looking good, but then the yellow flag came out and didn’t help us any,” Munoz said in the team-issued release.

“I ended up making a mistake trying to overtake (Charlie) Kimball, so we ended up crashing because of my move. It’s racing and I apologize to all of those who were involved in that incident.

“We ended up getting back into the race and we finished strong in the eighth position, not the result we were looking for, but we have to take all the possible points we can get this early on.”

It’s a nice sentiment from Munoz, who had both Graham Rahal and Conor Daly address the move post-race.

“He’s 10 car (lengths) back or something and T-bones me,” Rahal told NBC Sports post-race, as he finished 16th after starting sixth.

“He says to me, ‘Oh, my bad. My fault.’ Well, yeah, obviously. Everyone knows that.

“It ruined our day. We had a top-three car. We had to take our time as it was difficult to pass.

“I’m frustrated because we deserve better than people being idiots.”

Daly added, “I came out right in front of Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) and right in front of (Carlos) Munoz. And Hinch, I thought was a few laps down. I didn’t know if he would challenge, because I was fighting at the front.

“But he dove down inside into (Turn) 4, and I was gonna sort of let him have it, then Munoz went around the outside. We were three-wide into 4 and Munoz is on the outside, and came straight down into both of us. I must have clipped him, and honestly I have no idea what happened because I clipped the inside curb and the wheel came out of my hands. I thought the wing’s broken.

“But then we just overheated. A piece of either his car or our car came in the radiator, and we had to make another pit stop.”

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

Petit Le Mans championship
IMSA
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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.

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.

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 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.”