5.5.14 (via RACER.com) – Out of all of the tracks we will compete on in the 2014 season, Barber is the one place that all of us in Indy Lights have the most testing time at. Throughout the winter, we spent a total of four days running together learning the track and preparing the cars. The only not-so-ideal thing was the Alabamian weather in December and February. At both tests, we all suffered through 45 and below temperatures… and a lot of rain, which wasn't exactly the case for us this past weekend, 75 and sunny… well, mostly sunny, but we'll get to that.
Coming off of our pole and second place at Long Beach just a couple weeks before, the team and I had a lot of momentum and confidence rolling into our two practice sessions on the promoter test day. Eager to get the weekend started, we were the first ones to roll onto the track as soon as it went green Thursday morning, but after the two test sessions that day, we knew we had some work to do as a team. We ended P3 in the first session and P4 in the second. With the dramatic change in the ambient and track temperature compared to the test, our cars needed a bit of a makeover to fit the new conditions.
On Friday, we had one early practice and then straight to qualifying. We knew we still had a chance to improve the car a bit, so we changed a good amount of things and were able to see what worked and what didn't, which led us to make a list of things to try in the 45-minute qualifying session and just keep working away hundredth by hundredth to get where we needed to be.
At the start we were P3, about 2.5 tenths off of pole position, but with 35 minutes to go, we didn't panic and just focused what we needed to do on the car. The next outing, we managed to get that gap down to just a tenth. We were finally dialing the car into where we needed to be, and at this point we had just about 10 minutes to go and one last change to try. My engineer told me to remember back to Long Beach and push the car as much as I could. On the out lap, I could tell we made the right change; I felt I had a car for pole – I just had to focus and make it happen. On my first timed lap, my projected was on a pole lap, but I just pushed too hard and made a mistake.
With the tires falling off so quickly at Barber, I knew I had only one or two more opportunities for a lap like that and I didn't want to throw that chance away. My second lap allowed me the pole by a tenth, but I knew I could get just a little more out of it. On my third, I pushed as hard as I could and snuck out five more hundredths. I couldn't believe it! We started off the weekend a step behind, and my engineer and I were able to rebound, stay positive and take our second consecutive pole of the season. It's just a starting position, but with it being so difficult to pass at Barber, it was definitely progress toward another win.
The way the past two Indy Lights races have gone, the race is ether won or lost in the first corner. We were 100% focused on how we could get a good start, because chances are, if you lead through Turn 1 at Barber, and have a consistent race, you can run your way to victory.
In the first race, I was lucky enough to be able to do just to that. Starting on the pole, I made sure I had a good run onto the front straight to give me what advantage I could take being the pole sitter into Turn 1, but it wasn't much. As we approached the brake zone, we were almost three wide again – Gabby (Chaves) looking to the inside and (Alex) Baron still hanging on the outside. After Gabby took the pole away from me at Long Beach, I wasn't going to let it happen again here. I broke later than I ever had into Turn 1 that just let me slip ahead. As I got to the exit, I looked in my mirrors and saw the two of them going off track. At first I had no idea what happened, but after review the two of them had made costly contact. From there on, I knew I just needed to build a gap up and save my tiresuntil the end. After 30 laps, I saw the checkered flags flying to drive to my second win in Indy Lights this season which ultimately helped extend our championship lead.
In the second race I didn't get the honor of starting on the pole. For the doubleheaders it goes off of your first and second fastest laps in qualifying; I missed pole for Race Two by just .02 hundredths of a second. Our race on Sunday was actually moved to 30 minutes earlier to try to escape the threat of strong rain, but it still looked as if, at some point in the race, we'd have to deal with it. My engineer and I decided to take a gamble and go toward a wet setup just in case, and looking back, we might have got caught out on it a bit. On the start Gabby and Baron worked really well together bump drafting into Turn 1 leaving me stuck on the outside falling back to third.
Right away, we just didn't have the speed with the wet setup on the car and I was left defending a lot of pressure from fourth place (Luiz) Razia, and he was making me work for it. As we got to halfway, it started to drizzle, and at first I thought our plan was going to work out, but after a few laps it stopped. With about 10 laps to go, I had to think about the championship – try not making any mistakes and just driving home our third place. Unfortunately, it was a little bittersweet. The rain came down very heavy at the end cutting the race three laps short. I could've used the rain a lot earlier, but all-in-all, I was very happy with the weekend. We have two wins, two poles and four podiums in four races, which is letting us leave Barber with a nine-point advantage over Gabby going into the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
I want to thank my engineer and the Andretti Autosport crew for doing such an amazing job for me so far this season, as well as RePLAY XD, Young Marines, ADS IT Solutions, Zakosi Data Back Up, Bell and OMP for all of their support. Last but definitely not least, thank you for reading, and I hope to see some of you in Indy!
5.5.15 (via RACER.com) – Barber, for me, was just one of those weekends. Obviously things did not go according to plan, and likewise, certain things didn't fall in our favor. The track conditions and weather were considerably different compared to the last time we tested there. The temperature was double than what it was at the test, and it was amazing how that affected our setup, so we seemed to be playing catch-up all weekend.
Challenging! Yes, I have to admit, but I came away from the weekend with even more determination. It has been a while since I have had to really dig deep and fight it out in the middle of the pack. Experiences like this certainly develop not only your skills, but are also character-building.
The qualifying session started OK as we were in and out of the top four, depending on who had new Cooper Tires on. But, we lost our way a little bit and did not have an extra set at the end, and as a result, I ended up a disappointing sixth.
My Andretti Autosport teammate Zach Veach was having simular problems to myself, but they made the right call on setup at the end of qualifying and captured the pole; unfortunately, we ran out of time and did not get a chance to do the same.
Barber is a notoriously difficult track for passing with really only one opportunity to pass at the start. Starting from the sixth position for both races was certainly not ideal… also survival through the first turn was crucial.
At the start of Race 1, the two Belardi Auto Racing cars hit each other in the first corner and I was able to slip through into fourth place. The changes to the setup made the car much better, and I was quicker than the car in front of me; passing was a whole other issue, and unfortunately, I spent the entire race following. I couldn't quite overcome the aero wash and the loss of down force. I could get close in certain corners but never close enough to make a clean pass for the podium position. This was rather frustrating, but it reminded me how important qualifying is in these cars.
The track conditions for Race Two on the following day were very different. Our race was scheduled immediately after the World Challenge cars, and along with the significant weather changes, it was going to be a guessing game for everyone. Unfortunately these factors changed the balance of the track and it seemed to affect both Zach and I negatively in the race. Although both of our setups seemed to be heading in the right direction, our balance still needed improvement.
Unlike the first race, the second race got off to a clean start. Although I managed to get a good jump, I had nowhere to go, and I maintained my position through the first corner. Just as in Race 1, I was having a hard time following the car in front, and I couldn't get close enough to make the lunge for the position. My only option was to continually attack and keep the pressure on… just maybe they would make that tiny error that would enable me to get by, however, I was never to get that opportunity. Earlier in the race I had the engine hesitate and I thought 'no that doesn't feel right'. But I thought luck was shining on me when the engine seemed to correct itself. With around 15 laps to go, my car completely died coming out of Turn 2 and I lost fuel pressure. The kind of luck I wasn't looking for paid me a visit, and I was forced to pull the car off to the side of the track and retire - that's my first DNF in a long time.
Barber is one of the prettiest circuits I have ever been to; however, when you pull off the track and have to jump the fence, the bushes on the other side are very difficult to clear. I ended up all tangled up in them, so hope nobody was filming me!
I know I am more motivated and determined than ever. All of us will be working even harder for that place on top of the podium. The month of May is almost here, and along with the excitement of the traditional Freedom 100 oval race for us, we also have the inaugural road course race to look forward to. What a blast! The new track looks brilliant and I can't wait to go racing again.
4.26.13 – Long Beach, for me, was a strong result but still not where I want to be. I felt quite confident leading into the event. I love racing on street tracks and Long Beach seems to be the king of street tracks. It was an awesome event, and the track was so cool! I was amazed at how pretty the fountain turn was, but at the same time, it's all very challenging; it was easy to absorb yourself in the atmosphere. It was for sure one of the most fun events I have been part of and cool to listen to my dad's stories about the place and the history that's behind it.
Practice started out quite well. It's a tough track to learn and I had never been there before so it was certainly demanding in getting up to speed. However, I felt like we were rather quick and definitely had the pace to run up front. During practice we were all incredibly close with the Belardi team looking the strongest, however, I did not foresee qualifying playing out the way it did.
Although I felt confident with our pace going into qualifying, I was also prepared for the fact that it was going to be a tough battle for pole position. I certainly would never have predicted just how tight it ended up being with the top four qualifying within 0.07 of a second. This was the tightest qualifying session I have been a part of. It was a mixed feeling for me; I was happy to be so close to getting the pole, but I was disappointed to be so close to the pole time and yet be in third place. I took the positives away from this looking forward to the race… since we were all so close, I figured any of us had the chance to win the race.
Our race started off reasonably well; however, it became apparent very quickly that it was going to be difficult to pass. I came out of the first corner in third place and stayed in that position for the rest of the race. I was pushing as hard as I could the whole time in the hope that maybe someone would make a big enough mistake and I could slip through. Unfortunately, I ended up brushing the wall quite a few times but I didn't think about any of it while I was racing. It was really interesting to see on TV when I watched it, and I think I need to reel myself in and stay off the walls in the future. I was happy to finish in third place and bank some good points. Although, I must admit I was a little frustrated to run in third place the whole race and not have the ability to move forward and fight for the win.
Long Beach was a great learning curve for me, and I have come away from there feeling more comfortable with the direction I want to go in with regards to the car and my driving.
My approach for Barber this weekend will be a little different… aggressive as ever but smooth, and I'm very confident it will work. Our pre-season testing ended strongly at Barber and we were the quickest here. I know our Andretti Autosport team will be quick, however, the key will be adjusting to the changing track conditions throughout the weekend. There are a lot of points on offer with the two-race format. I will be reeling myself back into the championship fight; the start to the championship for me didn't go according to plan. I feel that all of the rookies this year are having a difficult time adjusting to racing the Indy Lights car. Once we all figure it out, I think there will be more championship contender's popping up in the later part of the year – the same way it happened last year.
I'm really looking forward to this weekend. It will be a fun event at Barber Motorsports Park, and it will be our first proper road course race this year. I will be staying open minded and I'm looking forward to seeing how this weekend plays out.
4.21.14 (via RACER.com) – With our very first win at St. Petersburg just a couple of weeks ago, the team and I were very excited to get back after it, especially at one of the most iconic tracks on the schedule – Long Beach. Last year was my first time getting the opportunity to compete on the circuit and I fell in love with it instantly. Of course for multiple reasons – one, its not like the typical street course; it's very fast and flowing. Third gear in most of the corners whereas in St. Pete and Toronto you're in second. Two, you have the Hairpin, where you're down to just 35mph and you get to drive around a fountain in Turn 3.
Last year our Long Beach weekend started out well, qualifying third but ending the race about 300 yards after the start-finish line on the first lap. So of course, with the championship lead going into the 2014 race, we definitely wanted things to go differently!
Especially with how the points are set up for this season: If a driver fails to compete 50% of the race winner's laps, he or she will only get a single point for that weekend. This puts a heavy price on being overly bold until halfway.
Like St. Pete, our weekend was set up pretty simple. Two practice sessions, qualifying and a 45-lap race. Right from the get go, we put our momentum to good use and ended up P2 in our practice session on Friday. Overall I was pretty happy with the car, but we knew we needed to get more speed out of it. In that situation we made some pretty bold changes on the car for practice two. Looking back it might have just been more of the track that we were chasing which put us behind to P4 in the second practice on Saturday morning. We only had a little over an hour before qualifying, so we went with our gut feel on what to go back on and waited.
At the beginning of the 45-minute session we were playing a bit of catch-up, settling back into the new changes. I felt right away they were the ones we needed. As I got more comfortable with the car, I started to change and try different things with my driving. My engineer was on the radio the whole time telling me what sectors I needed to improve on and where we were the fastest. With about 30 minutes to go, we decided to come in and switch to our first new set of tires. After I got a few laps out of them, we were P1, but I knew it was only going to be for a short time. As I came to pit lane for my second set of new tires, we'd had already fallen to P2. At the point, we decided to make a bigger change than before on the car to help aid the understeer. As I got back on track, we had 9 minutes to go, which only meant 6 or 7 more laps. This was when everyone started putting in their fastest times. We'd be P2, P3, and then P2 again, while everyone was bouncing around.
As I came through the hairpin with only 20 seconds to go, we were 0.15 seconds off, and P4… My engineer told me, "OK, This is going to be your last lap, squeeze everything you can out of her!"
I took a breath to clear my head, and just tried to focus as much as I could to put together a perfect lap; it felt like everything just slowed down for a minute. I came around to the timing line and entered pit lane.
To be honest, I had my head down; I didn't know what kind of lap I just did. A split second later, I heard my engineer come on excitedly saying "Nice job, man! Right now that's pole!" Turns out, the top 4 were separated only by 0.07 of a second… I was only ahead of P2 by 0.03. It was the closest gap I've ever been in! We couldn't believe it.
Of course, getting the pole was a nice start, but only that – a start. Thinking back to St. Pete, we started second, and was able to make a move into turn 1 and go on to win from there. With that being said, we were really focused on making a great start because it's so hard to pass at Long Beach with the low downforce levels.
We were on our way of doing just that as well coming to the green, except for one thing we didn't think about. As Gabby [Chaves] and I were racing neck and neck into Turn 1, his teammate gave him a little push from behind with his front wing. From my point of view, it looked like he pulled another gear. At the same time, I saw Matt Brabham looking to the inside of me.
With the help of the push, Gabby was about a car ahead of me, so it made more sense to let him go, and focus on defending myself from Matt. The race was pretty much sealed from there on, unfortunately. I coasted the first half, trying to save my tires the best I could and came on strong at the end putting the pressure on Gabby. It just wasn't enough.
After 45 laps, we finished second with the fastest lap of the race. We had the fastest car, but a second-place opportunity. All in all, I can't complain with that – we made valuable points, and that's what a championship is all about.
So far, Gabby and I have had identical weekends except for a single point. After Long Beach, I am at 93, and he has 92. It feels great to still be leading the championship, but I'll definitely be working to make our lead bigger next weekend in Barber!
Thank you for reading, and thank you to RePLAY XD, Young Marines, ADS IT Solutions, Zakosi Data Back Up, OMP, Bell, and of course Andretti Autosport for all of the support.
4.7.14 - Don't miss out on your opportunity to visit with our INDYCAR drivers from Pro Mazda to Indy Lights and the Verizon IndyCar Series! Check out the list of appearances for our weekend at the Grand Prix of Long Beach!
Thursday, April 10
Pit Stop Demo
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Friday, April 11
Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Muñoz
Verizon IndyCar Autograph Session
4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Muñoz
w/ a performance by LIVE
The Federal Bar
102 Pine Ave, Long Beach, CA 90802
6:45 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.
Saturday, April 12
Carlos Muñoz meet & greet
INDYCAR Fan Village
11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Zach Veach & Matthew Brabham signing
Indy Lights Autograph Session
INDYCAR Fan Village
2:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
4.2.14 (via RACER) – Zach Veach took the first Indy Lights win of his career with a dominant performance in St. Petersburg. The Andretti Autosport driver, who was one of only three non-rookies in the field, passed polesitter and fellow veteran Gabby Chaves at the first corner, and never looked back. He crossed the line five seconds clear of Chaves, who in turn had a 16s buffer over third-placed Jack Harvey.
"I'm so happy. Last year didn't go exactly how we wanted it to, but my engineer (Doug Zister) never stopped helping me," related Veach. "This winter I spent a lot of time trying to get more physically strong because I felt that was my weakness, and spent a lot of time doing mental things and came into the season with a whole new attitude. I think it paid off for us.
"My engineer definitely was on me a lot about saving tires. In my mind I was thinking, 'Just don't mess up, just hit my marks, have
It was the battle for third that provided most of the race's interest. Early on the position was occupied by Matthew Brabham, who looked a threat for second during the opening laps before he clipped the wall at Turn 3 and was forced to pit with a punctured left-rear tire. That promoted AutoGP champion Vittorio Ghirelli onto the provisional podium, but he was never able to open a gap over the group of cars pursuing him and was eventually beaten with a great move around the outside of the last corner by Harvey.
3.21.14 (via MotorSportsTalk) – Carlos Munoz’s two 2013 starts for Andretti Autosport in an IndyCar produced audible gasps more often than not.
There was no way he was going to make some of the moves and entry lines he did work. At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his line of arcing in so high and then diving so low below the white line in the turns should not have ended without him in the wall. But it did, in second place in his Indianapolis 500 debut.
Then at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana in October, Munoz was moving high or low with ease in an action-packed 100 laps. Then, just past the century-mark, it finally bit him.
The 22-year-old Colombian is a seriously impressive star in the making, and with a full offseason to prepare for his first full season in the championship, he’s the early favorite for rookie-of-the-year honors in the team’s No. 34 Cinsay Honda.
Don’t tell him that, though. Munoz is a quiet, introspective student appreciative of the teammates around him and his countryman, Juan Pablo Montoya, who he’ll have the chance to race this year.
“Yeah, I’m a really quiet guy. I’m really shy,” Munoz admitted during IndyCar media day in Orlando. “That doesn’t mean I’m – how you say – bad person. I’m quiet and shy compared to James (Hinchcliffe). He’s always talking, making jokes, completely different mind.
“But they treat me as one of them. They treat me really well. After Indy they treat me really well! But it’s great to have this combination of drivers, no?”
Munoz didn’t need to produce a star turn in the ‘500 to earn his place on the grid, but it didn’t hurt. He showed enough aggression, poise and pace in his two full seasons in Indy Lights that he was projected to move up this year, despite not winning the championship a year ago.
“That race just gave me the opportunity to be here in a full season,” he said. “I have another chance to go get that race. I’m focused on this year. But now I have my chance and I have to think and work for it.”
At least initially, he may have a slight pace edge on his two countrymen, Montoya and Sebastian Saavedra. Montoya will need to shake the rust off after his extended open-wheel hiatus, while Saavedra acclimates to a new team at KV/AFS Racing.
Munoz said Montoya wasn’t so much his idol, as much as a symbol of what could be achieved when Munoz was growing up. But he plans to consider him just “one of the guys” once on track.
“I don’t like the word ‘idolized,’ but he was a symbol for me when I was a kid, an example for me and many Colombian drivers, to follow him,” Munoz said.
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