INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – Second.
It’s the most gut-wrenching place to finish in most any race, much less the Indianapolis 500. Carlos Munoz has had to endure it on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval not once, but twice, including last year.
Since then, the 25-year-old Colombian has moved from Andretti Autosport to AJ Foyt Racing. He has an appreciation now to not only win for himself, but also for the racing icon whose team he drives the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. A.J. Foyt’s team hasn’t won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” since 1999 with Kenny Brack.
“You want to win this race really badly, to do a good result because he just loved this place,” Munoz said of his boss. “He’s spent the whole month here. He's in the garage at 9 a.m. until late, 7 p.m. You see him in the garage because he loves that, right? I think me at the same age, I would be home in Texas at my ranch.
“He loves this place, that's why it motivates you. It's really nice. … All the stories about the 500 and how big this race is, all the couple of years. He's the first guy who tells you what you're doing wrong or to the mechanics or engineers. If you're not good there, he says, ‘Hey, you have to try something different.’
“He's the first one to push, to be pushing.”
According to Larry Foyt, team president of AJ Foyt Racing, it has been Munoz who has been pressing the team during the week of Indianapolis 500 practice.
“So far, I think we've been pretty under control with our program, which is nice,” said Larry Foyt, son of the legendary four-time Indianapolis 500 winner. “Obviously, Carlos has a lot of laps around here even as a young guy.
“I think we've been kind of working on race stuff here so far and (teammate) Conor (Daly) has tried a couple different setups. I think they hit on something that he really liked (Wednesday) a little bit. … A lot of times we're pretty conservative here, but Carlos is certainly pushing us to make sure we get out and do a lot of traffic running and do what the other guys are doing so that we know what we have come race time.”
Although he has one Verizon IndyCar Series win on his resume in 58 career starts, Munoz’s record has been near perfect at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval. In addition to the runner-up results in 2013 and ‘16, he also finished fourth in 2014.
The second-place finish last year came after Munoz had to pit late for a splash of fuel, allowing teammate Alexander Rossi to coast across the finish line after his tank ran dry on the last lap. Munoz was left with tears in his eyes on what could have been.
There is a saying that the track picks the winner. If that is the case, Munoz is just waiting for his moment.
“Waiting for my perfect time and it will be even greater if I win it for AJ Foyt Racing,” Munoz said. “I think people won't expect that, to win with A.J. Foyt, but people would like it even more. Like I said before, I think the time has to be perfect, but I think I can do it.
“I think I have the talent to win this race, and someday I will.”