With an Indianapolis 500 run included in his deal for a full Firestone Indy Lights season with Andretti Autosport, Carlos Munoz’s upcoming season is set up to exceed his accomplishments in 2012 … which is saying something.
The recently-turned 21-year-old signed with the team for a second season after racking up two wins, five podium finishes and a pole en route to fifth place in the championship (less than 20 points out of third).
“2012 was my best year as a driver, on both the personal level and the career level,” Munoz said. “After racing in Europe for many years, I made the difficult decision to come here and race. Racing in the United States is completely different. I had to adapt my driving style each race in order to be fast in America on a road course or oval.”
Two rough ends at St. Petersburg and Barber Motorsports Park put a damper on the beginning of the season, retiring because of contact in each. Munoz then put together a string of four top-five and eight top-10 finishes, including his first career win at Edmonton. A mechanical issue at Baltimore ended that streak before a rebound at the season finale in Fontana, where he started second and won the race on the 2-mile oval.
Munoz was also part of an impressive group of drivers from his home country of Colombia. Along with Gustavo Yacaman and Sebastian Saavedra, the drivers finished 3-4-5 in the title race.
“Of course there is always going to be rivalry to be the best driver for your country,” Munoz said. “At the same time, it is always nice to see Colombians being successful. I believe there was at least one Colombian on the podium at every race last season. We are very proud of our country and like to see racers in every series.”
With his rookie year out of the way, Munoz will have to mature his racing craft in a short time for 2013. Where he had Saavedra as a veteran teammate last year, he is now the veteran teammate to first-year competitor Zach Veach. In four short months, Munoz will also be preparing for a doubleheader week in Indianapolis, in which he’ll contest both the Freedom 100 and the Indianapolis 500. With his eye still on the Firestone Firehawk Cup, the chance at winning the Borg-Warner Trophy isn’t wasted on him.
“I think after a successful rookie season last year, we wanted to start learning an IndyCar by racing in the Indy 500,” Munoz said. “Andretti Autosport gave me this opportunity, which means a lot as a young driver.
“They are giving me this chance and have confidence in me, when there are so many experienced drivers out there that would want this chance also. My main goal is the FIL championship. I will think about the Indy 500 in May and physically train for the race in the months leading up to it.”