To be the very best, like no one ever was.
For Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly, those words could be used to describe their racing aspirations. But recently, they could also be applied to a rediscovered pastime.
Munoz and Daly are two of the reported 30 million people who have joined the augmented reality craze that is Pokémon GO, released earlier this month. Pokémon GO is a mobile phone app that gives users the chance to be virtual Pokémon trainers, akin to the likes of Ash Ketchum in the popular animated Pokémon TV series, which has aired more than 900 episodes since 1997 and whose theme song includes the opening line of this story.
Munoz and Daly relish the chance to engage in the digital nostalgia of the show and video games that they enjoyed in their childhood.
“When I was a child, even nowadays, I play it on my Nintendo DS, too,” Munoz, driver of the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, said with a laugh. “Since I was a child, I really enjoyed watching Pokémon.
“I started playing early (last) week, down in Miami. Where I live in Miami, there’s not many Pokémon. But it’s fun, it’s kind of new and it’s kind of crazy what people have found looking for Pokémon.”
Using their phone’s GPS, players can explore the real world and find Pokémon through their camera’s display via augmented reality on the app, and catch said Pokémon with Pokéballs, just like the show’s characters do. The game itself is the latest extension in a series of games that started in 1996, with nearly 300 million units sold worldwide.
“It was a big part of my childhood, actually,” said Daly, who drives the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Dale Coyne Racing Honda. “I played all the games, every single one. I like technology, so the more the technology grew, the better the graphics got, it all just got better, and this one is cool.”
With the recent release coming in the middle of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, both drivers admit they have yet to maximize their inner Pokémon trainer.
“It felt like I could spend the whole day (playing),” said Munoz, “but then I had to leave to race in Toronto. It’s new stuff everywhere, for everyone.”
Both drivers, who turned 24 in the offseason, spent much of their elementary school years watching the Japanese-produced show and playing Nintendo games. They joked that their new form of entertainment may seem odd to others in the paddock.
“A couple of my mechanics play it,” said Daly, “but other than that I haven’t played any drivers yet. They’d probably just be upset with me and think I’m a weird kid by playing that, but that’s fine.”
Pokémon even has a history in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 1999, Jaques Lazier drove a car with Pokémon sponsorship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (photo above right).
“A lot of drivers are into Pokémon,” Munoz added, “a lot of young ones. When I talk to the ‘grown up’ drivers like Juan Pablo (Montoya), they don’t even know what Pokémon is, but it’s good fun.”
Along with Pokémon, both drivers will look to catch their first win of 2016 at The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on July 31. Coverage of the race from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, airs at 2 p.m. ET July 31 on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, with a 5:30 p.m. ET re-air on NBCSN.
Don't look now @CarlosMunoz034, but this little guy may be trying to steal your ride. 🙈 #IndyCar #PokemonGo pic.twitter.com/xfk48hLfNW