Long Beach: race report Long Beach: full results

Although officially listed a rookie for the 2014 season, Andretti Autosport's Carlos Munoz had already impressed in two outings last season, the first of which saw him qualify and finish in second place in the Indianapolis 500.

Now the 22-year-old from Colombia has another podium in the books after finishing in third place at Long Beach, after holding off an assertive campaign from his compatriot and motor racing idol Juan Pablo Montoya who came across the line just behind in fourth place.

"I'm really happy, it was a really nice race," he said, adding that he's spent the final laps trying hard to get the jump on Will Power for second. "I just pushed pretty hard on the last two laps to try to overtake Will, but it was really difficult even though I had some push to pass.

"But I'm happy, second podium in the IndyCar, and first podium this year, so I'm going to keep pushing," he said.

Munoz revealed that the car had been a handful at the start, and admitted that the big multi-car wreck on lap 54 had been a big factor in his getting onto the podium.

"It's not the way I'd like to earn my third place with so many accidents, but this is racing," he shrugged. "Anything can happen, especially on this track - especially in IndyCar. Anything can happen."

Also having a strong run at Long Beach was fellow rookie Mikhail Aleshin, the 26-year-old Russian picked up from Formula Renault 3.5 at short notice just before the start of the season to fill the second Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports seat in 2014 alongside Simon Pagenaud.

"We had a really good day in Long Beach despite everything that happened in a very eventful race," said Aleshin. "I had a good start in the race and gained two positions. We spent a lot of time fighting with the other drivers for every position we could get.

"Unfortunately our strategy got thrown off when I pitted only two laps before the first caution came out," he said. "[Then] on the second restart I broke my front wing because someone spun in front of me and there was nowhere to go.

"I was able to pass several drivers and the big shunt in turn 4 moved us up as well," he continued. "On the last restart my teammate Simon got me: it was actually a really good move and showed me that I still have a lot to learn on the rolling restarts."

Aleshin ended up crossing the line in sixth place in only his second outing in the series, one spot behind Pagenaud. However it was not an entirely spotlight performance, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal unhappy with the rookie for spinning him around at the hairpin on lap 67, and moreover at the way race control didn't hand down a penalty for causing avoidable contact.

"I hit Justin and they called a penalty on me," Rahal pointed out. "And then I got hit by Aleshin and he doesn't get a penalty. Same exact situation but I got one and he doesn't."

The final rookie in the top ten was Carlos Huertas, who could have finished higher than tenth place if not for the drive-thru penalty he received for jumping a restart on lap 65 which sent him to the back of the lead lap with only a handful of laps remaining to the finish.

"The race was good and the pace was good," he said of his race. "The pace on the black tires was pretty OK, you know, not fantastic and then we switched to reds. It took four or five laps to get good and then the pace was good. I was able to follow the people in front of me. We mostly moved up through strategy, it is really difficult to pass here."

For a long period of the race it had looked as though English rookie Jack Hawskworth would end up as the highest-placed rookie driver, as he maintained a strong top ten position for most of the first two thirds of the race.

Unfortunately that high track position meant that Hawskworth was also early on the scene of the multi-car wreck in turn 4 on lap 55, and the 23-year-old from Bradford had no time to react when he turned the blind orner and found the track ahead blocked.

"It was a disappointing end to the day, getting taken out by the accident," he said afterwards. "It's a shame. We struggled a little bit for speed in the race but we were hanging up front. Thanks to the team for all the hard work. They put in a big effort and it's a shame we didn't get the result."

Although the Bryan Herta Autosport pit crew were eventually able to get the #98 running again, Hawksworth returned to the race three laps down and had to settle for 15th place in the final race classification.

Long Beach: race report Long Beach: full results

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment