By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
After being replaced by Tony Kanaan at AJ Foyt Racing, Carlos Munoz is returning to his old Verizon IndyCar Series home at Andretti Autosport – at least for one race.
Andretti announced on Monday that Munoz will compete for the team in the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.
The Columbian will pilot the team’s No. 29 Honda entry in the legendary 500-mile event, joining former Indy 500 winners Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay, along with Marco Andretti, Zach Veach and fellow temporary addition Stefan Wilson to complete the six-car Andretti effort in the race.
“I am very excited to be a part of Andretti Autosport again,” Munoz said in a team release. “The team has been like family to me since day one, when I joined them five years ago to race Indy Lights.
“We have been so close to winning the Indy 500 – twice with the team – so I am especially excited to be back for that race and hopefully we will have a good result this year”
Munoz has spent the majority of his INDYCAR career with Andretti, making his series debut with the team in the 2013 Indy 500 before competing full-time from 2014-16. He claimed a win at Belle Isle Park in Detroit in 2015 and seven podiums during the stint.
However while the Detroit victory was a pivotal part of Munoz’s Andretti tenure, the 25-year-old’s greatest peaks with the team came in Indianapolis during the Month of May. His debut run in ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ ended in a strong runner-up result that garnered Munoz Rookie of the Year honors. The following year saw Munoz deliver another strong result in fourth.
Though his 2015 run ended in a disappointing 20th, Munoz followed it up with arguably his best drive in the race to date in 2016 – beating out all competitors on outright speed only to lose out on a victory in the race’s historic 100th Running to teammate Alexander Rossi on a fuel strategy play.
Munoz’s 2017 run at the Brickyard was comparatively disappointing, ending in 10th amid a difficult year with Foyt. The team’s poor fortune led to Munoz’s replacement for 2018, freeing him up for an opportunity to return to Andretti.
While Munoz has no additional confirmed INDYCAR starts, recent history shows that he’ll have a chance at victory in his Andretti return. The organization has won three of the last four Indy 500s with Hunter-Reay (2014), Rossi (2016) and Takuma Sato (2017), along with earlier triumphs by the late Dan Wheldon (2005) and Dario Franchitti (2007).
Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti hopes the return of Munoz will bolster the team as they attempt to tally their sixth win in the event.
“We’re thrilled to have Carlos back in an Andretti car for the Indy 500,” Andretti said. “There is no denying that Carlos has talent at [Indianapolis Motor Speedway], he’s finished runner-up twice and that has fueled his determination to get to victory lane.
“He has already built relationships with his teammates and many of those on our crew, so it should be a seamless process for our six cars when they head out for the first time together.”