SEBRING, Fla. -- After two-plus days in the No. 4 Panther Racing car, Carlos Huertas is growing more comfortable with the prospects of competing in the IndyCar Series.
Following a mid-January audition, the 22-year-old Colombian returned to Sebring International Raceway to resume testing in the Chevrolet-powered car Feb. 3-4. Technical director Tino Belli and team manager Derek Higgins directed the program, which was curtailed in the afternoon of the second day because of an electrical issue.
"It was great to be back at the track with Panther," Huertas said. "We were able to try different things and kept improving all the time."
Huertas, who competed in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series the past two years, said his interest in the IndyCar Series was prompted by the challenging diversity of its schedule and closed doors in Europe.
"I always heard good comments about the series from the people that have helped me and that it was a good option," said Huertas, who recorded one victory and 14 podium finishes overall in the 2011 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series. "This year there was big interest from the team to come and test. Europe is still an option. This year I was going to try to do GP2, but there are a lot of experienced drivers who have taken all the good seats so I didn't want to be wasting another year if it's not on a good team."
Panther Racing hasn't announced its 2014 plans.
"At the moment, things are looking promising in my view," Huertas said.
Huertas said the IndyCar Series car is "very similar to what I've driven before" so initial acclimation hasn't been an issue.
"It's a good preparation for me to be a better driver overall," Huertas said. "The schedule is very packed compared to Europe; no holidays during the season. And it is interesting with big variety so you learn many things, especially if I do the ovals it will be a new thing to learn. The races here also are quite strategic with fuel saving and tire saving coming into play. The schedule is intense, but I think it makes you a better driver."
Munoz eager for season the start
Carlos Munoz arrived early Feb. 4 at Sebring International Raceway. He was eager to "be back on this beast" for his first full day of testing.
Munoz got in a half-day of work in November at Sebring after teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay set up the car in the morning.
"It's good for me to get up to speed and for me to improve my connection with my engineer (Garrett Mothersead) and mechanics," said Munoz, who competed in three IndyCar Series races in 2013 with a best finish of second in the Indianapolis 500.
Munoz finished third in the Firestone Indy Lights standings in an Andretti Autosport car in '13. He'll drive the No. 34 Honda-powered entry in the 18 races this season, which kicks off with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 28-30. A Honda manufacturer test early in the month precedes the first Open Test on March 17-18 at Barber Motorsports Park.
"I have to work quite a lot to have the car 100 percent at St. Pete," Munoz added. "It will be an interesting season so I have to work a lot and push a lot."
Trophy design to be unveiled
The winner’s trophy for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis will be unveiled and the designer recognized at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Indianapolis Artsgarden in downtown Indianapolis.
The IndyCar Series race on the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is May 10. The winning design was chosen from more than 150 entries that were judged on relevance to racing, originality and creativity. Contest entries were reviewed by a panel of judges, including members of the Arts Council of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Motor Speedway executives, reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and IndyCar Series driver Josef Newgarden.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team manager Rob Edwards said that Mikhail Aleshin's rookie oval test last week at Homestead-Miami Speedway went off without a hitch. "It was something different to be sure," said Aleshin, who will drive the No. 7 SMP Racing car. ... OnX Enterprise Solutions, a leading enterprise data center IT solutions provider, is the official information technology provider and an associate sponsor of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. ... Indianapolis Motor Speedway senior director of marketing Jarrod Krisiloff, 31, has been named one of the 2014 Indianapolis Business Journal's Forty Under 40 business and professional leaders for Central Indiana. The program recognizes individuals that have achieved an extraordinary level of business success at a young age. ... Michael Andretti's home on the road will be featured on "Celebrity Motor Homes" at 10 p.m. (ET) Feb. 5 on the Great American Country network.