An hour before accepting the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award during the INDYCAR Championship Celebration on Aug. 31, Carlos Munoz was already thinking about 2015.
Specifically, the 21-year-old from Colombia said he’ll work to improve results on short ovals. Overall, he’s satisfied with progress shown in the transition from Indy Lights to the Verizon IndyCar Series.
“It was a hard season mentally and physically for all the drivers, the stress and I only thought about racing,” he said. “Though it was a short season, it feels like it was a long season. I had some top-10 finishes and think I showed what I can do. I can be really fast on all kinds of tracks.
“I have to learn from my mistakes for next year to fight for the championship.”
Munoz finished eighth in the championship standings driving the No. 34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com car for Andretti Autosport – HVM. He produced three podium finishes (all third places at the Long Beach and Houston street course races and the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway oval), top other top-five finishes totaled eight top 10s. Munoz qualified a season-high third at Pocono.
Munoz led a talented first-year class of drivers – all of whom recorded a top-five finish.
Though he didn’t compete in the season finale Aug. 30 at Auto Club Speedway because of injuries suffered in a practice crash the night before, Mikhail Aleshin placed 16th in the standings with a best finish of and second at Houston in the No. 7 SMP Racing car for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. He had seven top 10s overall.
Jack Hawksworth qualified a season best of second in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis and high finish of third at Houston in the No. 98 BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian car. He was 17th in the standings.
Carlos Huertas made the biggest impression with a victory in the opener of the Houston doubleheader in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing car. He added two other top 10s and finished 20th in the standings.
“The competition this year was really tough,” said Munoz, who competed in three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2013. “I’m just really happy; this is just the beginning, hopefully, of my career in IndyCar for many years. It’s always nice to have this honor in your resume. I think we finished the season strong, so I’m happy.”
In the 250-lap finale, Munoz was struggling to get a grip on the 2-mile oval. He qualified 19th but advanced to claim eighth place. Munoz credits teammates Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay for assistance in that particular race and throughout the season.
“No matter how many questions I have, they respond really well,” Munoz said. “Like at Fontana, I was struggling a lot to find the grip of the car and it was hard to find the line and hard to overtake. And I asked more than 20 questions – the same to each of them: ‘How did you do that?’ ‘What are doing?’ It’s great to have these teammates and you know they’ll tell you the truth. Everyone wants to win but this is a family that wants to work together.”