If team owner Michael Andretti entertains the idea of entering a fifth car for the inaugural Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit this weekend or the Firestone 550 six days later at Texas Motor Speedway, Carlos Munoz wants him to know he’s available and more than willing.
They’re off weekends for Firestone Indy Lights and the series championship points leader would love nothing more than to follow up his scintillating runner-up finish in the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race by competing in an Andretti Autosport IZOD IndyCar Series car again.
Munoz was the highest rookie finisher in the “500,” tying JR Hildebrand (2011) as the most recent. The 21-year-old native of Colombia and Miami resident, who started second and led 12 of the 200 laps in a record-setting race, will be recognized with the Chase Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Award during the Championship Celebration on May 27.
Munoz finished fourth in the four-wide Firestone Freedom 100 on May 24 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I’m asking (the media) to press (Andretti) what you think,” said Munoz, who set the fastest lap by the race leader of 223.651 mph on Lap 184. “Seriously, I have to do my job. My job, I'm still the Indy Lights championship leader and it has been my main goal since I started the year.
“This was one race more to have more experience and it came out really good, I think more than expected. I have to concentrate working on my Indy Lights program.”
Getting proficient with pit stops, which aren’t part of Firestone Indy Lights, in a short period was Munoz’s chief concern heading into the Indy 500.
“I was a little bit nervous with the pit stops and the entry to the pit lane and out. I didn't do a lot of practice during the week,” said Munoz, driving the No. 26 Unistraw car. “(Overall) I was pretty patient. I overtook one car, was patient, and at the end was pushing more. The first two pit stops, the one or two pit stops, was not that great. I had a lot of people who overtook me. I went one by one back to the front.
“The last two pit stops, the guys and me, we did a great job to not to lose any position.
The last yellow flag, maybe I could have the shot to win. The car was awesome from the first lap to the last lap. I have to be proud of me and no shame of nothing, to be rookie, to be second. I think I did a great race.
“Hopefully, in the future, I will be able to drink milk. Right now I'm thirsty, but hopefully it's in the future for me.”
AJ Allmendinger, who started fifth in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske car, also was impressive. He led 23 laps and finished seventh. Tristan Vautier, the 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion who’s running the full season for Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian, gained 12 positions to finish 16th. Conor Daly, driving the No. 41 ABC Supply car for A.J. Foyt Racing, advanced nine positions to finish 22nd.
“Once I figured it out, the IZOD Chevy was just a missile,” Allmendinger said. “It was almost too easy at times just to go by the guys. It was probably the coolest feeling in my life to take the lead at Indy and lead the Indy 500. That's a feeling I'll never forget."