Carlos Munoz is treating his two-race deal with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as a fine way to remind IndyCar Series team owners that he deserves consideration for future employment.
With four full seasons of experience, including three with the front-running Andretti Autosport outfit, the Colombian found himself out of work after a disastrous 2017 spent with A.J. Foyt Racing. His move from Andretti to Foyt should have cemented his position in the series, but with the Foyt program plummeting to new depths, Munoz and teammate Conor Daly were jettisoned as part of a team-wide overhaul.
Barring a one-off return at the Indy 500 with Andretti in May, Munoz has spent the year sitting idle. When the opportunity to partner with James Hinchcliffe came along after Robert Wickens’ season-ending crash, the 26-year-old scraped together the funds to invest in himself and, if all goes well, earn a rare second chance in the series next year.
“This is the thing I’m hoping for,” Munoz told RACER. “I just want teams to look at me and think about me for next season to get back to being [a] full-time IndyCar driver.”
Subbing for Wickens on short notice, Munoz flew to Portland and did his best to ignore the physical rigors that left his arms and neck feeling like wet noodles after spending so much time out of the cockpit.
“Even though I’ve been in the gym and doing go karting, the muscles aren’t the same; the only way to get physically prepared to drive an Indy car is to drive an Indy car, so it’s tough to do with no time to prepare,” he said. “I bought my plane ticket [for Portland] at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, and was testing on Thursday… Physically, I was destroyed after five hours of testing. My whole body was hurting.”
Munoz soldiered home to a 12th-place finish at Portland, which was aided by the Lap 1 attrition that claimed Hinchcliffe, Graham Rahal, and Marco Andretti. Making a statement at Sonoma will be just as hard, but he remains optimistic.
“The times are close, so it’s step by step,” he added. “On my first day [at Portland], the car was driving me more, and it’s not an excuse, but it’s the last races of the year and everybody is warmed up. It’s not going to be easy to be in front of a lot of these guys, but we will try. I’m here. We want a good result, but I’ve already shown for many years I can be at the front.
“It’s not like there aren’t any seats to have next year, but a lot want money. That’s the problem. If they want a full budget, that’s not something I can do. But we will see what happens. If I can only do the Indy 500 again, that’s what I will do, but I want to do more.”