Munoz scores first career pole for IndyCar’s Firestone 600

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FORT WORTH — Carlos Munoz looked down at his dashboard and was surprised.

In his first lap of qualifying for the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, Munoz had put up a time of 24.11 seconds.

“Oh man, that was a good lap,” Munoz thought.

The next would be even better, as his average speed of 217.137 mph earned him his first career pole in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Munoz, in his No. 26 Honda, was the only driver to top 217 mph. Since he was the fifth car out on the 1.5-mile track, the 24-year-old driver had to go through “a little bit suffering” with his teammates on pit road.

“If I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be on the pole; I wasn’t expecting to be 217 after practice,” Munoz said. Munoz was sixth fastest in the morning practice session at 215.882 mph.

“I wasn’t really happy with the car, conditions were really tough in practice,” Munoz said. “Looking at my teammates and other Hondas, impressed with my speed.”

The next highest Andretti Autosport car is Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi in ninth, which is a career best. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti will start 11th and 12th respectively.

Munoz’ previous best start in 45 races was second in the 2013 Indianapolis 500. That was also his first-career start.

“This feels really good to be the first pole in Verizon IndyCar,” Munoz said. “Hopefully the first of many. Now it’s time to focus on the race. I want to win races.”

While he has one win, it came in a rain-shortened race at Detroit in 2015.

Filling out the top five is Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Takuma Sato and Josef Newgarden.

Rossi earned his career best start in ninth. He started 11th in the Indy 500. Also earning a season-best is Sato. His previous best was eighth at Long Beach.

Surprising in qualifying was the result posted by Juan Pablo Montoya. The Team Penske driver will start 17th, which equals his second-worst start of the season (Indianapolis).

“For some reason our car is just slow, it seems to be like that every (week),” said Montoya, who has started 10th or worse in three of the last five races. “But it sucks, it gets old.”

Both Dale Coyne Racing cars will start from the rear after Conor Daly only put up a speed of 213.826 mph and Gabby Chaves did not make a qualifying attempt after a practice crash.

“We need to do a lot of work on the car, having not tested here really hurt us as well,” Daly said. “I just don’t know the track. I don’t know the ins and outs of it.”

FORT WORTH, Texas – Qualifying Friday for the Firestone 600 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.455-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, and speed:

1. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 217.137
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 216.901
3. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 216.740
4. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 216.740
5. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 216.684
6. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 216.663
7. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 216.647
8. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 216.295
9. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 216.262
10. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 216.262
11. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 216.260
12. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 216.162
13. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 215.927
14. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 215.751
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 215.533
16. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 215.299
17. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 215.279
18. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 215.030
19. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 214.864
20. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 214.568
21. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 213.826
22. (19) Gabby Chaves, Honda, no speed

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).