It hasn’t been a dream season by any stretch for Carlos Munoz or Conor Daly, but Sunday’s run in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway allowed a moment of solace for both drivers.
And while finishes of 10th and 14th place, respectively, don’t grab headlines, it provided AJ Foyt Racing a second straight race of promising results and a momentum lift heading to this week’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline at Gateway Motorsports Park.
The ABC Supply 500 featured 42 lead changes and 590 total passes from the 22 Verizon IndyCar Series drivers spanning the 500-mile contest, the Foyt drivers did their part to mix it up with the competition.
Starting 18th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet, Munoz charged up five spots until early contact with Ed Jones damaged his rear wheel guard and forced two pit stops under caution to replace the rear wing assembly. Munoz dropped to 20th place and then methodically moved back through the field. He climbed into 10th position at the midpoint of the 200-lap race on the 2.5-mile oval and ran as high as third before finishing in 10th – the 25-year-old Colombian’s fourth top-10 of the season but first since the Indianapolis 500 in May.
"It was a fun race,” Munoz said. “It's been a long time (since he was able) to have a fun race. I think the last one was at Texas. The car was really good. We've made a good program at the speedways so I'm really happy.
“In the last stint, we were missing just a little bit of speed, but I'm happy to bring the car home 10th. We were fighting the whole race and it was fun to make some good passes. We'll continue to try to do that."
Daly, fresh off a 10th-place effort of his own three weeks earlier in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, had an up-and-down afternoon of his own at Pocono. Coming from 17th on the grid, the 25-year-old Indiana native didn’t crack the top 10 until Lap 118 thanks to making to a pit stop just before a caution flag.
Daly also ran as high as third place in the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet, but running off pit sequence and bearing the extra burden of a drive-through penalty for taking more than required service during a stop with the pits closed, slipped to 14th at the checkered flag. Still, he took heart from the effort.
“That was the first 500-mile race I finished on the lead lap, so that's good,” he said. “I think we had a really good shot at it when we got the track position, but then we got the drive-through, which is a shame because I didn't see the yellow light (signaling a closed pit) on my dash. But it's one of those things.
“Once we lost track position, it was difficult to stay up, but I think we made a good step forward today.”
With the final oval of the season this week at Gateway Motorsports Park outside St. Louis, there is reason for optimism. In four of the five oval races thus far in 2017, an AJ Foyt Racing car has finished in the top 10.
On top of that, Daly has been among the leaders in two tests this year at Gateway – one in May before the track was resurfaced and the other earlier this month following the repaving of the 1.25-mile oval.
“I've been looking forward to the Gateway race since our first test there in May,” said Daly, whose season-best finish is seventh at Texas Motor Speedway in June. “I've really enjoyed the testing we've done there this year and we've been quick every time on track, so I have high expectations for the weekend.
“It'll be supremely close as INDYCAR weekends normally are, but I hope to be fighting at the front end of the field all weekend long.”
Verizon IndyCar Series practice begins at 5 p.m. ET Friday at Gateway, with qualifying set for 7:30 p.m. on Coors Light Pole Night Showdown. A final practice starts at 10 p.m. All three sessions will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. A delayed qualifying telecast airs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN, ahead of the race telecast.
Live race coverage begins at 9 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
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