INDYCAR News and Notes – Nov. 17, 2015

1. Munoz Returning to Andretti Autosport in 2016
2. Road America Virtual Race Has Drivers’ Engines Revving
3. Mario Andretti Makes Pit Stop on ‘Jay Leno’s Garage’
4. Canadian Race Broadcasts Show Marked Growth
5. Of Note

1. Munoz Returning to Andretti Autosport in 2016: Carlos Munoz will return to the No. 26 Honda with Andretti Autosport for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, the team announced.

Munoz, who turns 24 on Jan. 2, will join teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay for the third successive year on the starting grid March 13 for the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“I’m really happy to be able to return for another year. The 2016 schedule looks really nice and we hope to fight for an Indy 500 win and a championship,” said Munoz, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year when he started on the front row and finished second in his Verizon IndyCar Series debut.

Munoz, who resides in Miami, posted his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series win this past season at Belle Isle. He added two other top-five finishes (fifth at Iowa Speedway and Pocono Raceway) in the final four races of the season.

In 2014, Munoz recorded five top-five finishes and earned the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award. He competed for Andretti Autosport in Indy Lights in 2013, posting four victories on the way to placing third in the championship.

“Carlos has been part of the Andretti family of drivers for several years now,” team owner Michael Andretti said. “We’re really pleased with his growth as a driver and look forward to a competitive 2016.”

2. Road America Virtual Race Has Drivers’ Engines Revving: Road America is a favorite track among most race car drivers – even in the virtual world. The venerable Wisconsin road circuit is the site tonight for Round 6 of the 16th Street Racing League, the simulated racing competition pitting professional drivers against standout amateur virtual racers, and at least a pair of pros are eager for the challenge.

Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Gabby Chaves and Sage Karam are expected to compete. Action begins at 8 p.m. ET and will be streamed live on, complete with commentators and race stewards. The league is a collaboration among INDYCAR, iRacing and RACER magazine.

3. Mario Andretti Makes Pit Stop on ‘Jay Leno’s Garage’: Comedian and former late-night talk show host Jay Leno attended the MAVTV 500 in June at Auto Club Speedway to talk competition and trade a few funny stories with Indy car legend Mario Andretti. It made for a perfect segment for “Jay Leno’s Garage,” which will air at 10 p.m. ET Nov. 18 on CNBC.

Leno’s visit for the Verizon IndyCar Series race included an INDYCAR Experience two-seater ride on the 2-mile oval with Andretti behind the wheel. The two car lovers also took a drive in an exotic passenger car on twisting California roads and visited Leno’s renowned personal collection of vehicles.

4. Canadian Race Broadcasts Show Marked Growth: Popularity of the Verizon IndyCar Series is increasing everywhere, including Canada – especially among a key younger demographic, according to INDYCAR’s Canadian broadcast partner Sportsnet.

Overall viewership of Verizon IndyCar Series races on Sportsnet One increased 101 percent in 2015 over 2014 and showed a cumulative increase of 146 percent from 2013 to 2015. The coveted demographic of viewers 25 to 34 years old demonstrated a 10-fold increase from 2014 to 2015 on Sportsnet One.

5. Of Note: Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya will be a guest Nov. 22 on the “Dave Despain Show” at 8:30 p.m. ET on MAVTV. … Gary Gerould, who first appeared on ESPN in the mid-1980s as a pit reporter on Indy car race telecasts, retired from television following coverage last weekend of the NHRA drag racing event in California. He’ll continue as the play-by-play radio broadcaster of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. … Verizon IndyCar Series races will continue to be telecast in Germany on Sport 1 US through a rights package with ESPN Media Distribution. … American Will Owen will return with Juncos Racing for the 2016 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires season. The Colorado native, who attends Texas Christian Univeristy, placed seventh in this season’s championship on the strength of five podium finishes.