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Munoz Adds Texas Pole To IndyCar Resume

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 10 2016
Anthony Munoz drove his way to the pole at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport drove his way to the pole at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

FORT WORTH, Texas – Carlos Munoz checked-off another box in his emerging open-wheel career Friday afternoon, earning his first career Verizon IndyCar Series P1 Award for the 20th annual Firestone 600.

bugindycarMunoz toured TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval in a combined 48.2460-seconds at 217.137 mph to finish on-pole for the first time in 46 career starts.

Honestly, I didn’t expect to be on-pole,” said Munoz, driver of the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda. “I didn’t expect to be 217. After practice, I really wasn’t happy with the car. Conditions was really tough. We make some changes. When I saw my first lap on my dash (24.1148-seconds), I said, ‘Oh, man, that was a good lap.’ My second lap (24.1312-seconds) was really good, as well. So I was the fifth car out, it took a little bit suffering with my teammates and everything.

I’m really impressed with my speed. Looking for my teammates and other Hondas, impressed with my speed. It’s a long race. Really nice to have my first pole in my career. Really happy with it.”

Qualifying consisted of two laps with times and speeds officially calculated by INDYCAR using a traveling distance of 1.455-miles, which corresponds with data registered by on-board telemetry. The ambient temperature at 3:15 p.m. was 91 degrees, with the track temp a blistering 132 degrees, according to Firestone Racing engineers.

Munoz, a 24-year-old native of Colombia, now has qualified in the top-10 in all three of his starts at “The Great American Speedway.” The 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year, Munoz made his first start in the 2013 Indianapolis 500, qualifying and finishing second to Tony Kanaan. Munoz won his first series race on the Belle Isle Park street course in Detroit last year.

Scott Dixon, the defending event champion, joined Munoz in the two-car front row after lapping at 216.901 mph in his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

“Yeah, it’s nice to start up-front,” said Dixon, the four-time/reigning series champion. “I don’t think it’s really a big deal where you qualify, as long as you’re sort of half field up towards the front. But always it’s great to be towards the pointy end of the field. Congratulations to Andretti and Munoz for pulling off the pole.

“Carlos has done a tremendous job at the speedways. He has a very good record. There’s no doubt that he can wheel a car. But unfortunately with motor racing, some days it’s your day and others it’s not. If he keeps fighting at the right end of the field, he’s going to come through.

“Yeah, the Speedway, that’s a tough one. I think he’s finished second a few times.”

Munoz finished second to rookie teammate Alexander Rossi in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the latter stretched his fuel mileage into an upset victory on May 29. Munoz finished 4.4975-seconds behind Rossi.

Oh, yeah, got over (that disappointment) the next day for sure,” Munoz said. “I knew I had Detroit (last weekend’s Chevrolet Dual in Detroit). Is like my first Indy 500. People say I could have won it if not for the yellow. But I say that didn’t happen, nothing would change. I pass over that.

Like I say, I have many opportunities. Hopefully next year I have another opportunity. If would be my last 500 of my life, I would regret it for my whole life for sure. But I think it is not my last 500, I think I have many more to come. Hopefully, more opportunities.”

Helio Castroneves of Team Penske qualified third at 216.740 mph in the No. 3 Chevrolet. Takuma Sato qualified fourth at 216.740 mph in the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Honda fielded by the native Texan and four-time Indy 500 champion.

Rossi qualified ninth at 216.262 mph in his No. 98 Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda for what will be his third oval-track race. “The car was so good _ it’s really a shame to give away good positions because you don’t have a radio,” said Rossi, who is making his TMS debut. “We weren’t able to communicate with the timing stand to adjust the settings on the Castrol EDGE car, so missed out on where we feel we should be on the grid. But I’m looking forward to the race and working on moving up through the field.”

All drivers posted a qualifying attempt except Gabby Chaves, who crashed the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda in morning practice and will start Saturday’s 248-lap/372-mile race at the rear of the 22-car grid.

Munoz was the fifth qualifier and had to wait nervously as Dixon, Will Power, Castroneves, Marco Andretti and other standouts took their shots.

“I like where we are starting and we hope to bring home a good result,” said Castroneves, whose four Indy car wins at Texas are more than anyone.

Sato actually posted a qualifying speed equal to Castroneves, but will start fourth because his two-lap time was 0.0001-seconds slower. It is Sato’s best Texas qualifying effort in eight tries and the best for the Foyt team since Billy Boat started second and won the 1998 June race. “Working with A.J., he gave a few little tips which worked extremely well on the No. 14 car,” Sato said, “so we’re very happy, especially since this is our home track.”

Championship leader Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske qualified sixth at 216.663 mph in the No. 22 Chevy.

Another Verizon IndyCar Series practice is scheduled for 7:45-8:15 p.m. (EDT) Friday (streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com ), the final on-track session before Saturday’s race. Coverage of the Firestone 600, the ninth of 16 races on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, begins at 8 p.m. (EDT) Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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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 mph    
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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 10 2016
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