In his first start in the IZOD Indycar series Carlos Munoz became the first rookie since Danica Patrick 2005 to qualify on the front row.
If there has ever been a chance for a Trevor-Bayne-winning-the-Daytona-500 style upset in the Indy 500 it would be Munoz this year. He was the fast Andretti Autosport car in qualifying and Andretti has won three of the first four races. Watching Munoz run he’s incredibly consistent and calm for a driver whose turning his first laps in the IZOD Indycar series, he has speed and if his race craft holds up he could be a threat in the closing laps of the 500.
Munoz follows in the mold of a number of competitive drivers. A Columbian native he left home, and his family to go to school in Europe where he could race. During Indy 500 qualifying he told Will Buxton, “It’s hard to leave your family and your country when you’re just 12 years old, but you need to give up everything you have to be a driver.”
You’ve got to love guys who live that.
He never stood out any of the European ladder series has been impressive in Firestone Indy Lights. He won two races last year with Andretti on his way to a fifth place finish and after Jack Hawksworth took out Zach Veach at Long Beach last month the Lights championship, and the scholarship that goes with it, is his to lose.
Watching him in practice he’s been scary fast and aggressive. During bump day practice he passed Tony Kanaan going into turn two. He’s been close to the wall on exit and kissing the white line at the apex. Munoz has been driving with a confidence rarely seen in rookies, and hopefully that will pay off for him.
He’ll be the only driver running both the Indy 500 and the Freedom 100. He’s made it known that his goal is to move on to the IZOD Indycar series next year and a good run in the 500 goes a long way towards making that happen.
He doesn’t have the personality of James Hinchcliffe, or stellar resume that fellow Columbian Juan Pablo Montoya had coming up, but that kind of makes me root for him more. To me Munoz seems like one of those guys who has never been first pick, didn’t set the world on fire with is first efforts and didn’t have a clear path to what he wanted. If you can’t relate to that, then congratulations, because you’ve had a pretty blessed life.
This article is one in a series focusing on the one off drivers filling the grid of 33 at this year’s Indy 500.