Indy 500: What will Carlos Munoz do for an encore?

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If not for Dario Franchitti crashing just moments after the final restart of last year’s Indianapolis 500, perhaps it would have been Carlos Munoz – a driver competing in his very first IndyCar race – drinking the milk in Victory Lane.

Munoz followed Tony Kanaan past Ryan Hunter-Reay to take second place off the restart and may have been able to draft past the Brazilian veteran had the race stayed green.

But it was not to be for Munoz, who was still impressive and fearless in his Indy debut for Andretti Autosport.

One year later, he has returned to the Brickyard as a full-time member of the Andretti stable and will start seventh in Sunday’s race.

After his stellar performance in 2013, does he think he can follow that up with a victorious one?

“It’s going to be really hard for sure,” he said Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I think it’s going to be harder than last year because it’s just more competitive.

“Last year was really competitive, but this year, everyone’s really close to each other…It’s hard to have a plan because things can change so quickly from one lap to another lap.”

So far this season, Munoz has claimed the sole podium finish among the full-time Verizon IndyCar Series rookies with a third-place showing at Long Beach. But the Colombian has also had some rough times, especially in the last two races.

At Barber, he lost control of his car under caution and went into the barriers. Then earlier this month at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, he was unable to dodge the stalled car of Sebastian Saavedra on the standing start and slammed into him to begin a crash that also involved another rookie, Mikhail Aleshin.

But Munoz knows that those troubles will be out of sight and out of mind if he wins Sunday. He can certainly do that from seventh on the grid, and with a strong No. 34 Andretti Autosport Honda in traffic.

“This car is really sensitive to weather changes, track changes,” he said. “I think on Monday in our last practice, conditions were really similar to what we’re going to have in the race.”

“No one wants to lead. It’s going to be a pack race like last year, from the first [lap] to the last [lap], it’s going to be really close. I’m looking forward to the race. Last year was awesome for the fans and hopefully, we’ll put on a great show again.”

Reaction to INDYCAR/NBC Sports Group announcement: Mario Andretti, Roger Penske, Bobby Rahal and social media

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Like countless others on the East Coast, Mario Andretti was fighting through a snowstorm Wednesday morning.

But emotionally and personally, it was a very bright and sunny day for the legendary Indy car driver.

In an exclusive interview with, Andretti spoke in glowing terms about this morning’s announcement of a multi-year media rights partnership between INDYCAR and NBC Sports Group beginning next year.

“I think this is awesome,” Andretti said. “It’s music to my ears and all of us. NBC has been very familiar with IndyCar racing, so they’re a great partner. I’m elated that it’s all nailed down, secured and I’m looking forward to the future.

“It’s also great for the young lads in Indy Lights coming on, and it’s great for all the sponsors to have that kind of exposure. It’s a good day for INDYCAR today.”

Andretti lauded the fact that all elements of INDYCAR coverage – TV, digital and streaming – will now be under one corporate roof, so to speak.

“Personally, I think it’s huge,” Andretti said. “Everybody is going to be very familiar with everything, the storylines are going to flow perfectly from event to event. There’s nothing like continuity.

“It’s okay sometimes if you have two networks, but to me, the best possible solution is this. That’s why I think this is really a great day for INDYCAR racing to have NBC involved and the continuity is huge for us.”

MORE: NBC Sports Group, INDYCAR partner on new TV and digital rights agreement starting in 2019

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Several other high-profile individuals within the IndyCar community also gave their take on Wednesday’s announcement, including statements from team owners Roger Penske and Bobby Rahal.

Roger Penske: “As an industry, we are very fortunate to have the NBC Sports Group grow their presence and coverage of INDYCAR racing and really invest in the future of the sport. We believe there is a great deal of positive momentum in the Verizon IndyCar Series right now, from the development of the new race car, to the very talented group of young drivers and new teams coming into the sport this season.

“With the announcement of the enhanced broadcast partnership with NBC, it certainly adds to the excitement for the future. We know that the ways our fans are watching races and viewing INDYCAR content is rapidly changing, so staying ahead of the curve and the developing technology with our partners is important to the growth of our sport. We look forward to working with the NBC team to continue to build INDYCAR and take the sport in new directions.

“We also need to thank ABC and ESPN for all their terrific coverage over the years. The ABC network helped bring some of the most memorable moments in racing to life – including many of our team’s Indianapolis 500 victories – and we appreciate all of their hard work and passion for INDYCAR racing.”

Bobby Rahal: “It’s great news. I think the fact that the IndyCar Series will be under one roof, so to speak, network-wise can do nothing but great things for our sport. To increase to having eight races on network TV is also great news of course.

“The quality of the NBC broadcasts have gotten better and better over the last several years. They do a great job of providing interesting and entertaining content for the viewers and I think that will only continue to grow with the relationship going forward. That type of storytelling is also what helps bring new fans to the sport.”



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