IndyCar » 27 May 2013
Munoz proves the cream of the 2013 Indy 500 rookies
Stand-out Indy 500 rookie Carlos Munoz proved himself foot-perfect, not only in Sunday's 200-lap race but also throughout the two weeks of build-up.
It says a lot about the quality of this year's four-strong group of Indianapolis rookies that all of them made it to the end of the race without being involved in a single significant incident for the entire 500 miles of the greatest spectacle of motorsport.
As a former Champ Car driver and current NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, AJ Allmendinger was bound to draw the headlines and media attention. But in terms of raw performance, he was narrowly pipped for the honours by the 21-year-old from Colombia, Firestone Indy Lights regular Carlos Munoz.
Driving for Andretti Autosport in this month's Indy 500 as well as in the Freedom 100 support race, it was hard to see where he's gone wrong - if he had at all in the entire two-week build up as well as the race itself. He'd cruised through his rookie orientation program as expected on opening day, and then led the timesheets in his own right the very next day - the first of a string of Andretti successes in the nine days of practice.
That culminated in second spot on the grid for Sunday's race, and all eyes were on him to see when the pressure would finally get to him and when he would make a mistake - and how big a mistake it would be. The simple answer is that he didn't. At all. If the final restart had gone just a little bit differently, it could easily have been the nose of the #26 out in front when the track went yellow for the final time, and it could have been Munoz rather than Tony Kanaan in victory circle.
"I really wanted to fight for the win," admitted Munoz afterwards. "Maybe I could win. Maybe not, but I really wanted to fight ... You don't know what could have been. I think I had a great car and a great shot to overtake [Kanaan] on the front straight. But you never know. He did a great job.
"I have nothing to be ashamed of - to be second and a rookie and the best of the team is a great job," he said. "At the beginning I was a little bit nervous with the pit stops, but in the end, the car was great, and it's a good second place."
Munoz' success possibly took some of the spotlight off AJ Allmendinger, which might have been a bit of a relief to the 31-year-old from California, who had been nervous returning to open wheel racing after seven years in stock cars but immediately impressed in the new environment for team owner Roger Penske.
"The first issue was I was sissy on the start," he said self-critically. "That might have been the worst Indy 500 start ever! I went from like fifth to 20th in one lap. I'll be ready next time.
"After that, it took me about 40 laps to settle down. We kind of missed the gearing a little bit, we were hitting the rev limiter in sixth the whole time," he continued. "Once the yellow came out, I kind of calmed down and thought about what I needed to do to get around these guys. Once I figured it out, the IZOD Chevy was just a missile.
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