Well, if you’ve had your fill of Tony George and INDYCAR buyout worry in recent days, you’re not alone. Fortunately, we have some actual, impactful driver news from the last couple days to discuss.
You may have seen the news the Carlos Muñoz will not only be back with Andretti Autosport for the 2013 season, but will pilot their fourth car in the 2013 Indianapolis 500. The young Colombian driver was P5 in the Lights standings last year, but showed some good patience, won two races, finished P2 in the Freedom 100, and was nicely competitive in most of the others. I’m happy to see him back in the Lights seat next year, where he should at least contend for the title, but I’m curious in regards to his debut in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.
Is Muñoz ready for the Indianapolis 500? I’d probably put his development right now, over, say, Chase Austin, but that doesn’t say too much. I was nicely impressed with Muñoz’s development and body of work in Lights in 2012 (and his seeming knack for the ovals), but I think this situation is part of a bigger issue we see of possibly bringing young drivers along far too quickly. Now, fortunately, Muñoz will still be developing in 2013 in a Lights car, but the Indy 500 is a big stage on which to start your IndyCar career. We’ve seen drivers pull it off, but a little more seasoning wouldn’t hurt. As I've advocated before along with others, allowing champions of the feeder series to “bank” their championship scholarships would go a ways in encouraging this.
Still, at 20 years old, Carlos Muñoz will be nowhere near the youngest driver or most inexperienced driver to try to run in the Indy 500. I certainly feel better about him than I would having a young Lights driver who’s shown little respect on-track for others. He could turn out to do just fine—or, depending on how many entries we have, could be a swing and a miss when it comes to Bump Day.
Simply put, as much as I want to give the move a thumbs up, we just don’t have enough of a résumé on Muñoz to know how he’ll do when he gets to IMS. Looking at his overall open wheel career, we have some middling Formula Three and Formula Renault results, and not much else outside of last year. There’s nothing wrong with that—the same could be said of many drivers who have turned out to do well enough (or not). Like with so many moves, we again find ourselves needing a wait-and-see approach to see how he does. Muñoz is a sharp young driver, and I expect him to do well in INDYCAR in the long run. Whether or not he can do well right off the bat in the biggest stage this series has to offer will be a different proposition entirely.