With Ryan Hunter-Reay still under a multi-year contract and Marco Andretti confirming a one-year extension into 2016, their status of driving with Andretti Autosport for the Verizon IndyCar Series season wasn’t really in question.
Carlos Munoz’s, however, sort of was. But the Colombian has re-signed with the team for at least one more season in its third car.
Munoz captured his first career victory at the first of two races at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, in an admittedly strategy-aided and weather-shortened race. Nonetheless, it was just rewards for a driver who had shown plenty of glimpses of potential in a handful of 2013 starts and his first full season in 2014.
But as the year went on there weren’t really too many other drives that stood out and Munoz tested the free agent waters before re-signing with Andretti Autosport.
As Munoz related during IndyCar media day last week, staying with Andretti was always the goal, but wasn’t guaranteed until his signing was confirmed in November.
“We had the contract for this year, but I had been talking to other teams,” Munoz told NBC Sports during the media day.
“The situation was that my first priority was to stay with Andretti, but they were looking for sponsorships and everything. They found one. (Grupo) Exito signed with them for one year, one extra year, knowing it’s the 100th running, and they want to be competitive in 500. I’m happy to be back for a third year.”
Munoz was a revelation in his first two Indianapolis 500 attempts in 2013 and 2014. He finished second and fourth those two years, and his fearless, low line route through Turn 1 in particular raised eyebrows around the paddock.
But with the deficiencies that affected Honda’s aero kit last year at Indianapolis, a third straight standout drive simply wasn’t on the cards.
Munoz and the late Justin Wilson nearly snatched top-five results on fuel strategy, before late-race splashes for fuel dropped them to 20th and 21st, respectively.
“My race last year was (just) to be the first Honda,” Munoz said. “I was achieving that; I was the quickest Honda the whole race, but my mistake going in the pits cost me a drive-through.
“We knew we didn’t have a chance against the Chevys. We were more than 2 mph slower. You can’t do anything with that. We cannot change much stuff now this year. But we’re fighting there, and we’ll see if we can change the package.”
Munoz debuted a new red and white firesuit at media day, which would seem to indicate a change in livery for his No. 26 Honda when it’s revealed.
Munoz and Hunter-Reay will be testing this week at Auto Club Speedway, on Wednesday, in a Honda manufacturer test day.
The three drivers are the lone three confirmed for the full-season. Team principal Michael Andretti admitted to my colleague Luke Smith over the weekend in Buenos Aires that there is a chance Robin Frijns may run selected races in a fourth car, while Simona de Silvestro told Smith her FIA Formula E commitments may prevent her from an Indianapolis 500 bow.