The 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 represents a reunion of sorts for Carlos Munoz, as he’ll be returning to the Andretti Autosport team, with whom he had his biggest successes, in a one-off entry. Munoz famously made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut with Andretti Autosport at the 2013 Indianapolis 500, qualifying second and finishing second in one of the most impressive debuts any driver has ever had.
Munoz followed that debut with a solid rookie year in 2014, again in the Andretti camp, in which he claimed three podium finishes, finished eighth in the championship, and recorded another top-five finish at the Indy 500 by finishing fourth. He subsequently took his first career IndyCar win with the team at Detroit Race 1 in 2015, and 2016 saw him finish second once more at the Indy 500 – to teammate Alexander Rossi – before securing his first career pole with them at Texas Motor Speedway.
In short, Munoz rejoining Andretti Autosport is similar to a successful marriage getting rekindled. And, ironically, talks between both sides ignited at a wedding.
“Yeah, funny story because Marco (Andretti) invited me to his wedding. I went to the wedding. I start talking to J.F. (Thormann) and Michael (Andretti) about what they’re going to do next year. They said they’re going to do six cars in the Indy 500, all in-house. I say, ‘Whoa, that was interesting,'” Munoz said o their initial discussions.
Munoz added that, even though they waited until i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed to formally make the announcement, a deal with Andretti was always going to be in the works.
“So we started talking after the wedding to see what was going on. Just a few days ago, I think last week, we finalized all the little details. But we knew we (were) going to race with them for a long time. So, you know, I’ve been with them for five years, so we know each other really well. Everything was pretty easy. Even if the contract was not signed yet, we knew is going to work out in the end,” Munoz detailed.
The reunion between them is also reflected on the driver front, as Munoz has been teammates with all of Andretti Autosport’s current full-season drivers in his career – Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay from 2014 to 2016, Alexander Rossi in 2016, and Zach Veach in 2013, with Andretti Autosport’s Indy Lights program, and in 2017, when Veach joined A.J. Foyt Racing in a one-off entry for the Indy 500. He’ll have the chance to work with Stefan Wilson as well next May.
Munoz revealed that working with so many familiar faces is another facet of this reunion that makes him happy.
“I think Zach is going to be quick right away with a good car. You know, we will work a little bit in the 500. I think he did a really good job as my teammate there. So we’ll see what happens really. Just really excited to work again with all my teammates, with Alex, with Marco, and with Ryan.”
Munoz’s entry will be a sixth effort out of the Andretti Autosport shop, with all six being in-house. While that number seems a little high for one team to field, Munoz pointed to the team’s history of fielding fast cars – they’ve won the Indy 500 three of the last four years – as evidence of their ability to field several fast entries without skipping a beat.
“When I talk to Marco, to (J.F.), Michael, at the wedding, they say all of the six cars, they’re going to go in-house made with their own people, with no other teams in the middle. I was really interested, you know, because I thought maybe the sixth car would be with another team in the middle and wouldn’t be the same. Andretti has shown, like, (it) doesn’t matter if they put four or five cars, they have always been quick, all of them, like in the get-go. They do a really good job of being really quick, all of them,” Munoz explained.
Of course, the previous success the two have had together indicates that more success is possible. And while Munoz acknowledged that the 2018 aero kit is a big variable to tackle, he thinks Andretti Autosport will figure it out very quickly.
“Next year with the new car, all the teams starting from zero, it’s going to be completely different car, you know. The driving style, as well. Mechanical setup is going to be completely different. Now is a question mark how competitive all the teams is going to be, who is going to be the fastest, you know. But I’m really confident that Andretti is going to be right away really quick,” Munoz asserted.
And as far as other races he may run in 2018, Munoz admitted that he is considering racing in other series, but the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indy 500 are still his number one priority.
“I’m going to do my best. I think all the team, my manager and everything, we’re going to work really hard to keep more races,” Munoz revealed. “I want to keep my focus in IndyCar. As right now, I’m still young. I’m still 25 years old. I want to keep my options in IndyCar still. I feel that I have not done anything I can. I have some work to do, like to win the (Indy 500), to win more races, to be fighting, for sure. So right now my main focus is the IndyCar.”