INDIANAPOLIS -- Alexander Rossi and Carlos Munoz both had shocked looks on their faces after Sunday’s 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, but for completely opposite reasons.
Rossi was stunned because he had just won one of the biggest races in Indy 500 history – with an empty fuel tank to boot – having coasted the last quarter lap to the checkered flag in his No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda.
At the opposite end of the shock spectrum was Munoz, with a look that conveyed a combination of frustration and bewilderment over how he had not won. Munoz was so upset that he sobbed momentarily in pit lane after climbing out of his No. 26 United Fiber & Data Honda in second place.
He couldn’t believe this was his second Indianapolis 500 runner-up finish in four years. Munoz was most perplexed about how his teammate did it. How did Rossi complete 36 laps (90 miles) on one tank of Sunoco E85R, while Munoz was forced to pit with four laps for a splash to make it to the finish line?
“I knew I didn’t have enough fuel,” Munoz said. “I don’t know how my teammate did it without stopping.
“If I’m honest, I want to know what he did.”
Call it Andretti-gate because Munoz may open an investigation into how his teammate did the seemingly impossible.
“I will look,” the Colombian native said. “I am second, why he’s not stopping? He’s supposed to stop. I have to look and see what he did. I don’t know what he did.”
Munoz said the obligatory nice things about being happy for the team and Honda, but the look in his eyes and sounds of his voice made it evident this second place harder to swallow than his surprising runner-up finish as a rookie in the 2013 Indy 500.
“I cannot say I’m really happy,” Munoz said. “I’m just really sad and disappointed.”
It’s easy to understand Munoz’s frustration. Like his Andretti Autosport teammates Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Townsend Bell, he ran strong all day. Munoz was never out of the top 10 for all 200 laps. He only led 10 circuits around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval but was always lurking nearby.
But this is a 500-mile jaunt around the most legendary racetrack in the world. And Munoz, like most of the other frontrunners, needed that extra splash of ethanol in the closing laps to make it to the finish. Somehow, Rossi did not.
Strange things happening at the fabled Brickyard aren’t unusual; they’re expected, practically mandatory in nature.
With as good as Munoz’s car was, and as well as he was driving, it was not a stretch to think the 24-year-old would have wound up in Victory Circle.
He talked before the race of how important it would be to his native country if a Colombian driver won the 100th running. As a youngster in 2000 and again last year, he saw what it meant at home when Juan Pablo Montoya captured “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
“For me to win it, it’d mean a lot to Colombia,” he said. “Each time a Colombian wins, whether it’s football (soccer) or anything else, it’s a big deal. Colombians really love you and follow you a lot, and when you win, it’s huge for them, for sure.”
It would also help him break out of Montoya’s racing shadow.
“Everyone says you’re maybe the next Juan Pablo,” Munoz said. “He’s done really good for motorsports in Colombia. But I want to make my own name and my own path. I’m really happy in INDYCAR and I want to make my own name from him.”
Maybe at next year’s Indianapolis 500.