By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
PORTLAND, Oregon — Opportunities come in the strangest of forms.
For Carlos Muñoz, the thought of his next chance in the Verizon IndyCar Series wasn’t supposed to come at the expense of an injury of another – Robert Wickens.
After spending time over the last few seasons racing for Andretti Autosport and A.J. Foyt Racing, Muñoz saw himself without a full-time ride this season. The 26-year-old has only competed in the Indianapolis 500, where he finished 7th for Andretti. This past Wednesday, it’ll change as he’ll fill in for the injured Wickens in the No. 6 Lucas Oil Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at both Portland this Sunday and the finale at Sonoma Raceway.
“It’s not the best circumstances of wanting to be here, but it’s a great opportunity to be in a great team. Hopefully Robert recovers really well,” Muñoz told Motorsports Tribune.
“It’s been almost one year that I don’t drive any car in a road course, so for sure that’s really challenging for any driver. Physically it’s tough, but today I feel better, and also with the car.”
However, it was a learning curve for Muñoz during Friday morning’s practice session, as it was the first time he’s ever ran the current universal aero kit on a road course. The No. 6 Lucas Honda only ran three laps, winding up 22nd quickest with a time of 58.495 seconds, over a second slower than Sebastien Bourdais. The Colombian improved in the afternoon session, clocking in at 57.914 seconds, just over half-a-second behind Will Power, and good enough for 16th.
“Right now the position is not great, I finished 15th (in second practice). If I improved one-tenth, I’m in the top-10,” said Muñoz.
“It’s INDYCAR, we’re really close from each other, but I’m happy because I’ve been progressing through the ranks. I’ve been one step forward each session, so I’m really happy. Connecting really well with the team, and the good thing is that we have Sonoma, so will see how we’ll end up.”
Both sessions had different weather conditions with the morning session being mostly cloudy with small drip of showers that didn’t impacted any of the competitors runs. Then in the afternoon, conditions was sunny skies, reaching temperatures in the high 70s.
Muñoz said he didn’t saw noticeable changes on his lap times as he’s ready for Saturday’s final practice and qualifying session.
“Our times were pretty less more similar to this morning. Qualifying tomorrow will be around the same time as well, so it’s going to be more for us to read the car. It’s going to be easier on qualifying for sure,” said Muñoz.
“Tomorrow morning is going to be even quicker I think because it’s going to be cooler conditions, and more grip on the car. The good thing is we didn’t miss the balance between this morning and afternoon, even though it was much harder, so I’m happy for that.”
Regarding his plans for next season, Muñoz said he has some options, but sponsorship has been a detriment. Despite this, he feels that he’s proven in INDYCAR, but a good result could help his chances of finding a ride.
“I have a few choices, but it’s the same problem that everyone’s having, and that’s the sponsorship,” said Muñoz.
“I have options for really good teams for sure. It’s the first time I’ve worked for Sam (Schmidt), and I know it’s a great team. I’ll try to work hard. People know what I’m capable of as a race car. I don’t think I have much to prove, but I think I’ve proved a lot. It’ll be good to have a good result in those two sessions for sure will help.”