May 24, 2013, 7:00 AM EDT
A little more than one month ago, only the most ardent of IndyCar observers had heard of, or really paid attention to, Andretti Autosport Indianapolis 500 rookie Carlos Munoz.
Now, mere days before the 97th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Colombian is probably the month of May’s biggest surprise.
Munoz really came on towards the end of last Indy Lights season driving for Andretti, posting a pair of wins in Edmonton and Fontana. He’s a championship favorite this season, with wins already at Barber and Long Beach and searching for his third in a row Friday in the Firestone Freedom 100.
Oh, and he starts second in the 500 on Sunday. It’s the same accomplishment as his countryman, Juan Pablo Montoya, achieved in 2000 – Montoya went on to win the race.
Munoz is the fourth driver to race in both IndyCar and Indy Lights at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the same month. He had his first IndyCar test at Texas in March, and described his preparation for the month of May during the Long Beach weekend.
“I had had a really good day (in Texas), and I got very comfortable in the car,” Munoz told me at Long Beach. “I knew we had to go step-by-step; learn the track, learn the car and everything. We got faster and faster but I knew we had a really good car for the Indy 500.”
Easy for him to say at the time, but him following through in reality was a tough ask. So far, Munoz has passed with flying colors.
Running an aggressive line through Turn 1, Munoz has flirted with disaster with entering late and then diving underneath the white line. But it appears to be working. He’s stepped into a car, the No. 26 Unistraw Chevrolet, that has been among – if not the – quickest of the five-car Andretti armada this month.
“In the beginning, I was really nervous about it. But once I was in the car, everything was clear,” Munoz said after qualifying for the 500. “It seems easier on the TV. For four laps you have to be really precise each lap. If you turn a little bit later or a little bit earlier, the whole car is different.”
Thursday marked the first time this month Munoz shifted back to his regular car in Indy Lights. He qualified second there, as well, behind Sage Karam. The focus Friday shifts solely to Lights, even though there’s Carb Day practice for IndyCar beforehand.
“We had so much fun last year in that race because we were overtaking all the time,” Munoz said Thursday. “But I am going one-by-one. I am focusing first with Indy Lights – then I will focus on the Indy 500.”
Apr 22, 2014, 9:19 PM EDT
Mike Conway’s come-from-behind IndyCar win at Long Beach nearly two weeks ago may have been a surprise to some. But it wasn’t a surprise to team owner Ed Carpenter or Conway himself. They both had confidence in each other for a strong run and a high finish – and the win was just an added bonus.
‘Rookie’ Kurt Busch, 1995 champ Jacques Villeneuve, three more to undergo Indy 500 orientation/refresher
Apr 22, 2014, 8:21 PM EDT
It’s been 14 years since Kurt Busch was last called a rookie. And even though Busch has a Sprint Cup championship trophy at home, he’s still a rookie open-wheel driver as far as the Indianapolis 500 is concerned.
Apr 22, 2014, 7:12 PM EDT
Red Bull’s anonymous “Spy” says that their main rivals are getting “rattled and sweating a bit.”
NASCAR AMERICA: Scan All 43 – Kurt Busch breaks winless streak, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon still without wins
Apr 22, 2014, 6:46 PM EDT
On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR AMERICA, Leigh Diffey and Wally Dallenbach took a look back at the March 30th STP 500 at Martinsville Raceway and Kurt Busch’s win, which snapped an 83-race winless streak. We also look back at the rain-postponed Duck Commander 500 at Texas on April 7, as well as how Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, who have 10 Sprint Cup championships between them, but neither driver has visited victory lane yet in 2014.
Apr 22, 2014, 6:11 PM EDT
One of the most effective and successful pit crew coaches in the business has not only left Hendrick Motorsports, he’s also left NASCAR. Lance Munksgard, who had served as coach for the pit crews of both Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. since November 2011, has returned to his native Texas to work in his family’s business, according to MRN.com.
Apr 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
A critical tweet from the three-time Indy 500 champion’s account – which he says came from his sister – has put him on probation through June 30.
Apr 22, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
It’s another “Scan All 43″ showcase today, as Races 5-8 of this year’s Sprint Cup championship are profiled.
Apr 22, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT
If he had his way, J.R. Hildebrand would run the Indianapolis 500 tomorrow. The 2011 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year is looking forward to returning to the fabled Brickyard for this year’s edition of the 500 on May 25 for three primary reasons.
Apr 22, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
He believes that a win last fall at Richmond was taken away from him and his SHR crewmates.
Apr 22, 2014, 3:32 PM EDT
After winning an Indianapolis 500 win (1986, with Bobby Rahal behind the wheel), two CART championships and five Indy Lights titles – Steve Horne went back to his native New Zealand two years ago. But Horne isn’t the retiring type. Nor is he part of a “Where Are They Now?” question. If anything, Horne is as busy as he’s ever been, both running his own team as well as serving as chairman of the V8 Supercars Commission in New Zealand and Australia.
Apr 22, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Late clutch problems force the former CART champion and F1 pilot out of a likely Top-10 finish.
Apr 22, 2014, 2:34 PM EDT
Whether it be NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA or sports car racing, it’s become fairly routine for TV broadcasts to give in-car action during the course of a race. But it’s rare to actually see an entire race on video from the driver’s seat. That’s why we really enjoyed Mike Skeen’s video from last week’s Pirelli World Challenge GT race in Long Beach.
Apr 22, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT
The 20-year-old has been competing for Brad Keselowski’s Super Late Model team for the past two seasons.
Apr 22, 2014, 1:13 PM EDT
If Clint Bowyer is your heartthrob, it’s time to start looking for another as the Emporia, Kansas, native spent last weekend’s Easter break getting hitched to long time girlfriend Lorra Podsiadilo. In the Bahamas, no less.
Apr 22, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
The son of the three-time F1 champion is shifting gears once again.
Apr 22, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
His first two races with Target Chip Ganassi Racing haven’t yielded strong results, but the reigning Indy 500 champ tells an Indianapolis radio show that it isn’t the first time he’s had to rally.
Apr 22, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Jordy Nelson gets call to drive pace car for NASCAR’s Kansas 400 next month.
Apr 22, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
It feels like it could be a Justin Wilson weekend at Barber, armed with better testing pace and motivation to recover after getting hit multiple times in Long Beach.
Apr 22, 2014, 9:49 AM EDT
JGR’s latest new young gun to step up from other NASCAR touring series.
- Red Bull tweaks Mercedes over attempt to increase ‘Fuelgate’ punishment 2
- NASCAR still humming along after last fall’s Richmond scandal 9
- Mercedes’ domination: Equivalent or different from Red Bull’s? 2
- Who is better off? 2013 vs 2014 F1 points comparison 0
- An anti-climactic race in China ahead of F1′s return to Europe 0
More from NASCAR America
- VIDEO: Vettel ignores team orders, telling team “tough luck” (20)
- Alonso’s doing it again – another year outperforming teammate, equipment (11)
- NASCAR still humming along after last fall’s Richmond scandal (9)
- In re-released interview, Brad Keselowski recalls how Rick Hendrick left him heartbroken (8)
- Maldonado brushes off crash and spin in practice (7)