Munoz makes at least four for Andretti (2nd Update) UPDATE #2
With 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay under contract and the recent re-signing of Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport is drawing closer to finalizing its fourth driver for its 2014 IndyCar campaign.
|Colombian Carlos Munoz|
Indy 500 runner-up Carlos Munoz, who just completed his second season of Firestone Indy Lights with the Michael Andretti-owned operation, is coming off a star performance as a stand-in for Andretti's E.J. Viso at Fontana, and after months of work behind the scenes, is drawing closer to becoming the team's fourth full-time IndyCar driver.
“We're getting really close on Munoz,” Andretti Autosport Sr. VP John Lopes told RACER. “We're not ready to make any statements, but our people and Carlos's people are working very hard to get the last bit done and I'm starting to feel good about it.”
Andretti Autosport ran four cars this season, with a fifth for Munoz during the month of May, and despite the lack of clarity with Viso's future, Lopes, who also serves as the team's chief marketing officer, is confident the team will be back with at least four cars.
“We're going to operate the [Viso] car,” he added. “The news is we'll be running a minimum of four cars, and we're close on the fifth car, but that isn't ready to be announced.” Racer.com09/15/13 With Juan Pablo Montoya declining an offer from Andretti Autosport over the weekend, the team is now free to focus on other options, most notably its Indy Lights challenger, Carlos Munoz.
Team owner Michael Andretti told RACER Magazine on Thursday that the defending Indianapolis 500 runner-up will have a seat available in IndyCar next season and that he could be confirmed alongside Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay before the season finale at Auto Club Speedway in October.
"At the moment, he's in the plans, we're working on things to try to make it happen," Andretti said. "There is a good possibility he'll be here. Will he be a fourth car, fifth car? We don't know but we're working on it right now."
The younger Andretti and Hunter-Reay are currently the only two drivers confirmed for next season. The team is said to be close on finalizing a deal with EJ Viso and is still negotiating with James Hinchcliffe and sponsor Go Daddy.
Winning the Lights Championship unlocks a $500,000 scholarship that can be used towards the IndyCar Series.
Munoz is currently second in the standings and just two points behind Sage Karam with two races remaining. The graduation bonus will help but Andretti Autosport appears committed to the 21-year-old Colombian regardless of the outcome.
"Right now I'm quite confident I'll be moving up," Munoz told RACER. "I need to find some more budget for this, and Michael [Andretti] is helping me. The budget for the best teams is more than the other teams, so I'm trying to find the budget to drive with the best team."
Should Munoz be unable to find the full funding to afford a ride with the Andretti, Munoz appears content to take his services to another team in order to prove his value. But the consistent message is that, no matter what, Munoz will have a full-time ride next season.
"Of course I always want to be in a winning car, but if I can't find that much money, that's okay, I don't mind going to another team where I can show what I can do," he added. "Small teams don't have the same things as Andretti or Ganassi, but a small team like Schmidt has shown they can win. Dale Coyne can win.
"I won't be sad if I have to go to a smaller team, but I am trying to go to Andretti first and if I win the [Lights] championship, there's no excuse not to move up. Philly.com/SBNation08/09/13 Rumor has it that Indy Lights point leader Carlos Munoz will be added to the Andretti stable for the entire season next year, giving the team 5 full-time cars in 2014, unless free agent Hinchcliffe goes elsewhere. If he goes on to win the Indy Lights title he would bring that prize money to the team. While that is not enough for a full season, it's a start.
Recall that Munoz may have won the Indy 500 this year had it not finished under the yellow. As a rookie he left quite an impression. He has been added to our 2014 IndyCar Silly Season Page