The early season favorite for Verizon IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year was Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz, and Munoz confirmed the award with an eighth place finish in Saturday night’s MAVTV 500 season finale at Auto Club Speedway.
Munoz scored three podium finishes (all third-places), two additional top-fives and three further top-10 finishes to end eighth in the IndyCar points standings.
Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay finished sixth, Marco Andretti was ninth and James Hinchcliffe 12th this season.
As for the other rookies, Munoz was part of one of IndyCar’s better rookie classes in recent memory (2011 comes to mind), in a year that also featured the emergence – and podiums – from Mikhail Aleshin, Jack Hawksworth and race winner Carlos Huertas, all at Houston.
“First of all I want to wish (Mikhail) Aleshin a speedy recovery,” Munoz said. “As a rookie this year, I think it was the strongest rookie field IndyCar ever had. In general, we had the podiums and everything and that was great, and that’s why I feel really nice to be Rookie of the Year.
“As I said before, the competition this year was really tough. I’m just really happy; this is just the beginning, hopefully, of my career in IndyCar for many years. It’s always nice to have this honor in your resume. I think we finished the season strong, so I’m happy.”
Munoz also praised the work done by his No. 34 Cinsay/AndrettiTV.com Honda crew throughout the Fontana weekend, for getting him turned around after a difficult test and qualifying session (he qualified 18th).
“With how we started the weekend… you know, we started nowhere, and we finished P8 and with a good pace,” he said.” I had one problem in one of my stints; I had to stop in the middle of the stint, so that cost us a lot of positions.
“Anyways, I’m really happy with the car, with the finish, a top 10 in the championship. As I said before, I was really worried coming into the race because we were nowhere, and then suddenly during the race, the Cinsay car was perfect for me. I felt the grip, finally, during the race; when you have a good car, when you feel strong, you move up.”