Indy 500 rookie Carlos Munoz hits front row

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So far, Indianapolis 500 rookie Carlos Munoz is making this IndyCar thing look easy.

Munoz is making his big-league debut in the 97th running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, but there’s been no sign of first-time jitters for the young Colombian. Driving a fifth car for Andretti Autosport (the team he races for in IndyCar’s top feeder series, Firestone Indy Lights), he carried over the impressive speed he had in this week’s practice sessions and shot to the inside of the front row for next week’s “500” with an average of 228.342 miles per hour.

“I don’t have too many words to describe how happy I am, just a rookie to be in the front row, [it’s] just a dream,” said Munoz, who will be joined on the front row by another Andretti Autosport teammate, Marco Andretti (third, 228.261 mph). “I was like crossing my fingers that it rained [so] we can stay in the front row. I was happy with the car in the first qualifying [session], but we did a couple of changes and it worked out.

“…We didn’t expect [pole winner Ed] Carpenter to go so fast. He just did really good laps out there. I can’t say anything – just front row is perfect for the race. I have my teammate just on the side of me, I have great people around me with a lot of experience.”

Next weekend will be a busy one for Munoz as he’ll be migrating back and forth between his “500” duties and the Indy Lights series. On Thursday, the Lights camp will practice and qualify in preparation for their biggest race of the year, the Firestone Freedom 100, which will take place during Friday’s Carb Day festivities (Noon ET, NBC Sports Network). As the current FIL championship leader, Munoz will be participating.

However, while he admits that the weekend will be a trying one for him, he remains confident that he’ll be able to start up front in both events and perform well when it’s time to go racing.

“It’s going to be tough doing 600 miles in one weekend, but I think we have perfect cars in both Indy Lights and IndyCar, so I’m going to be hopefully in the front row in both categories,” he said.

IndyCar: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports expands mentoring program for tech school students

Photos: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
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IndyCar team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced today that it is extending and widening a unique sponsorship and mentoring program that began last season with students from Lincoln Technical Institute.

The program began last year, with students from several Lincoln Tech branches attending select IndyCar events for an entire weekend.

The students, primarily from auto and diesel training programs, got an insiders experience with the team, taking part in team meetings, watching team workers prepare and service the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe, sat on pit boxes during practices, qualifying and, of course races.

The overall experience was to get students more interested and involved in potential careers in the IndyCar field.

“We said at the beginning of last season that we knew our students would benefit and learn from the professionalism and drive of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team,” Lincoln Tech President and CEO Scott Shaw said. “But the experience they received working with the entire pit crew team and in particular crew member Cole Jagger – a Lincoln Tech graduate himself – went beyond even our own expectations.

“We were grateful for the time they spent mentoring our students, and we are thrilled to once again be part of the racing legacy of team owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson.”

Lincoln Tech will once again serve as an associate sponsor on Hinchcliffe’s car for the entire 2018 IndyCar season. In addition, it is expanding its Mentor Program to select students to attend a minimum of nine IndyCar races from six last season.

Students are selected based upon their grade point average, attendance, conduct and overall commitment to becoming outstanding automotive technicians. An interest in IndyCar and a desire to work in the industry is also considered.

One student that took part last season, Tyler Crist of Lincoln Tech’s Denver campus, joined the team at the IndyCar race in Long Beach last April, watching as Hinchcliffe won the event.

“It was the best weekend of my life,” Crist said after the event. “It reminded me of why I joined this field in the first place and to never give up on my dreams.”

Jagger will oversee the expanded mentoring program this season. For Jagger, being involved especially hits home, as he is a graduate of Lincoln Tech’s Indianapolis campus.

“I totally enjoyed working with the Lincoln Tech students that participated in the Mentor Program last year and look forward to meeting this year’s group,” Jagger said. “Being a Lincoln Tech grad, I hope the students realize that if you have a passion for cars, a career in racing is something that’s not out of reach. If I can be an example for them to follow, that makes it even more rewarding.”

In addition to the at-track activities of the mentoring program, several Lincoln Tech branches across the country will utilize CNC computerized machining and manufacturing tools to assist in creating car parts for SPM.

“Through this unique partnership, we’re able to hopefully find the next class of talent that could one day be part of our organization,” SPM president Jon Flack said. “We’re looking forward to another year of the mentorship program and having their students be ‘boots on the ground’ gaining real-life experience with our team.”

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