Given his quick success in the Verizon IndyCar Series, it is somewhat hard to believe that Carlos Munoz is still a rookie. The Andretti Autosport youth burst onto the scene with a runner-up finish in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 and has followed it up with three podiums and is sixth in the championship standings in just his first full-time season.
Munoz says his mental approach to racing and helpful teammates at Andretti are the reasons behind his seemingly flawless transition from Indy Lights to the IndyCar Series. He places no expectations on himself and acknowledges mistakes as simply part of the learning process.
“I just want to go race-by-race and do my best,” Munoz told Open Wheel Now over the weekend at Iowa. “I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot this season. Sure I’ve made a few mistakes like at Houston or whatever or Barber. But it’s a learning process and it’s a part of the job to make mistakes and learn from them.
“Overall, I feel like I’ve made good decisions and we’re doing well in the points and I have three podiums already. So I think I just have to push harder and keep learning to get to Victory Lane.”
Munoz says he rarely gets frustrated over something that happens on the track because in doing so, he would prevent himself from learning and therefore be at risk of repeating his initial offense. He specifically cited the second race at Houston, where he slammed into the wall one day after scoring a podium in the first race.
The 22-year-old said that he was mad at himself in the moment but Munoz explained that his methodical approach took over almost immediately afterwards.
“The second race pissed me off because I was doing so well and I was going so fast and I hit the wall,” Munoz said. “But after the race you have to move past it because you have to realize that all the guys here have so much more experience that you have. You can’t expect to beat them every time when you first get here. That’s really the biggest thing.”
Munoz attributes that mentality to his teammates and car owner at Andretti Autosport.
Team owner Michael Andretti has 42 Indy car wins and is the 1991 CART champion. Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay is the defending Indianapolis 500 winner and 2012 IndyCar Series champion. Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe also bring victories and perspective to the table, all shortening the Colombian’s learning curve tremendously.
The biggest piece of advice the four of them have bestowed upon Munoz? Surviving to the end of the races is critical and will always produce a solid result.
“In IndyCar, this is more of a survival kind of racing and anything could happen at any given time,” Munoz said. “Everyone is so quick so you have to stay focused in a long race. It is important to remember that these are longer races and that anything can happen and strategy to let you turn arond the race if something bad happens early.”
Next up for Munoz and the IndyCar Series is the doubleheader at Toronto, a series of races that the driver has had circled on his calendar for quite a while. Munoz ran the second race at Exhibition Place last season and believes his second go-around on the road and street courses will be his best shot to get into Victory Lane for the first time.
“Last year I only did the (one race) and this will be my first race back-to-back and I want to see where I am,” Munoz said. “Look back at my Indy Lights career. That second year was so much better because we had the experience and this year should be the same in IndyCar.”