INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES - July 5, 2013
Today's IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Munoz leads Open Test at Pocono
2. Mears provides ace in the hole for Team Penske
3. Dixon, Tagliani to raise money for charity through Power of 2 bet
1. Munoz leads Open Test at Pocono: Carlos Munoz took to Pocono Raceway as he does nearly every other track in Firestone Indy Lights -- quickly.
The Colombian, driving the No. 26 Dialy-Ser car for Andretti Autosport, was the fastest in the Open Test (187.688 mph; 47.9518 seconds) on the 2.5-mile tri-oval in which eight drivers logged 795 laps in preparation for the July 6 Pocono 100.
Points leader Sage Karam led much of the afternoon session and was second fastest at 187.548 mph, while his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian teammate Gabby Chaves (186.187 mph) was third fast. Zach Veach, who recorded a field-high 140 laps, was fourth (186.150 mph) in the No. 12 K12 Andretti Autosport car.
"It was a good test day," said Munoz, who has four Sunoco Pole Awards and two victories this season. "In the morning we focused on the car since it was my first time here and used the first couple of laps to adapt. It's quite tricky and Turn 1 is the hardest corner. The car is different in each corner so you have to adapt the car for each corner.
"In the afternoon, we focused on the race setup and trying to run in traffic. We improved the car a lot. Tomorrow is a long day and it will be a tough race. Hopefully we can stay up front."
Karam, who hails from nearby Nazareth, Pa., has won the last two races -- both on short ovals. He leads Munoz by nine points in the standings as the series enters the second half of the 12-race season.
"I want to represent Pocono and Pennsylvania and I want to win," Karam said. "I don't want to lose in front of my home crowd, so I'm going to give it everything I can to beat these guys."
2. Mears provides ace in the hole for Team Penske: Penske Racing's Mark Donohue won the first Indy car race at Pocono Raceway (1971) and Danny Sullivan the last (1989). In between, three other drivers totaled five victories on the 2.5-mile tri-oval for the team.
Rick Mears won in 1982, '85 and '87. He added two runner-up finishes and a third place, and started from the pole four times.
"He was the master of this place," said Team Penske's Helio Castroneves, who enters the Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco on July 7 with the championship points lead through 10 of 19 races.
Castroneves has Mears, in his 21st year as a Team Penske consultant, in his corner. More accurately, on the roof of the Pocono Raceway grandstand as his spotter.
"We need to make sure we keep the lead in the championship coming out of this weekend and we're happy we have a guy like Rick Mears, who's had so much success at Pocono in the past," Castroneves added. "With the long straightaway and the unique three corners at Pocono, it's going to be an awesome race for the fans to watch on Sunday."
The design brings into play three different radius turns, three different lengths of straightaway and three different degrees of banking. The first turn has a radius of 675 feet and 14 degrees of banking. The back straightaway is 3,055 feet. The second turn has a radius of 750 feet and 8 degrees of banking. The short straightaway is 1,780 feet. The third turn has a radius of 800 feet and 6 degrees of banking. The main straightaway is 3,740 feet.
"It was like having three tracks in one," Mears said. "That was part of the fun. It's great to get back."
Tom Sneva (1977) and Bobby Unser (1980) also won for Penske Racing at Pocono.
3. Dixon, Tagliani to raise money for charity through Power of 2 bet: IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Alex Tagliani and Scott Dixon will battle online during July to see who can raise the most money for charities through the Power of 2, an initiative focused on unlocking celebrity reach for social good.
Fans can donate to either Tagliani or Dixon at www.power-of-2.org as many times as they like until 8 p.m. (ET) July 18 to decide the winner. The second-place finisher of the IZOD IndyCar Series Power of 2 will don a costume and ride around the grounds of the Indiana State Fair on a tricycle.
Should Tagliani lose, he'll be making that journey in a Beaver costume, representative of his native Canada. Dixon would don a Sheep costume, an animal that roams the hills of New Zealand. Needless to say, neither driver wants to finish second in this race.
In the end, the winners will be the charities. Dixon supports Young People Living With Cancer in New Zealand, through CanTeen (www.canteen.org.nz) and in the United States in partnership with Teens Living With Cancer (www.teenslivingwithcancer.org). Tagliani is raising funds for Anaphylaxis Canada (www.anaphylaxis.ca), which is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to helping those at risk for anaphylaxis and those who care for them.
"As someone with a severe food allergy to peanuts and tree nuts, I can tell you that an anaphylactic reaction is far more frightening than driving a race car," Tagliani said. "Helping kids better manage their allergies and live safely is something I am very passionate about. I also can't wait to see Scott get on the kid's bike in his sheep costume."
Said Dixon: "I've been a strong supporter and spokesperson for both CanTeen and Teens Living with Cancer because I feel this age group often gets overlooked. Oftentimes people immediately think of either helping children or adults, but teenagers are going through a lot to begin with at this stage in their lives. It's one of the most difficult stages of your life - even without the added difficulties of fighting cancer."
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco on July 7 at Pocono Raceway. The race will be televised live at noon (ET) by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, including on Sirius and XM Channels 211, www.indycar.com and the INDYCAR 13 App for most smartphones and tablets. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Pocono 100 at 4 p.m. on July 6 at Pocono Raceway. NBC Sports Network's coverage of the race will be telecast at 4:30 p.m. (ET) on July 12.