IndyCar 2016 driver review: Carlos Munoz

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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver roster in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series. Next up in 10th is Carlos Munoz, who was top Andretti Autosport driver in the points standings this year but remains uncertain of where he’ll land in 2017.

Carlos Munoz, No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2015: 13th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 25 Laps Led, 14.0 Avg. Start, 12.1 Avg. Finish
  • 2016: 10th Place, Best Finish 2nd, 1 Pole, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 50 Laps Led, 11.9 Avg. Start, 10.8 Avg. Finish

In preseason, I wrote that one of the goals for Carlos Munoz in his third full-time IndyCar season was to be less anonymous, and the Colombian achieved that largely with flying colors. He made it back into the top-10 in points, finished highest of the quartet of Andretti Autosport cars, and arguably could have won at Indianapolis – hence why he was so distraught when he ended second there to teammate Alexander Rossi.

Munoz had his usual fair share of standout moments and cut down on a couple early season mistakes as the year went on. His aggression at St. Petersburg and Barber triggered a pair of multi-car accidents, but he emerged from both of them unscathed on his own.

Andretti Autosport’s qualifying struggles were pronounced but Munoz did well to get within one tenth of a spot of Ryan Hunter-Reay in terms of average grid spot, 11.9 to 11.8. He outqualified the American on eight occasions, and that was nothing to scoff at. Doing so at some of Hunter-Reay’s traditional hunting grounds like Long Beach, Barber and Iowa spoke to his ability level to get on top of car setup even when the car wasn’t at its optimum potential.

This was also a more consistent Munoz than in years past. He didn’t ebb and flow as much as he had the past couple years, and his only DNF came at Phoenix, when he had a nightmare weekend with a heavy crash in practice and another accident roughly halfway through the race. He finished higher in points in 2014, but that owed more to his success in double-points scoring races than outright consistency.

Munoz is in a weird spot heading into the winter. At 24, he’s in that rare category where he’s young and experienced, has grown with a team but yet is uncertain about his future. Andretti Autosport would like to keep him, but the frequently bare sidepods on the No. 26 Honda this year served as a reminder of how hard the commercial side of the business can be. He remains, if not an outright top-level IndyCar driver – yet – Munoz is a driver who still has room to grow and build upon what was his best overall season yet in three full-time campaigns.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.