The Firestone Indy Lights Series has been the last step on the Mazda Road to Indy for several years now and although the car count in 2013 was less than what people would like to see, great things are expected in the future as new series management takes over in 2014. A new chassis and engine combination has been announced for 2015 which should update the equipment to more modern specifications and make the transition to Indycars even smoother for the top series drivers.
The star of the 2013 season was Carlos Munoz as far as I am concerned. He blew away the field at Barber Motorsports Park early in the season and then nearly won the Indy 500 as a rookie when he was doing double duty during May in the big cars and in Lights. He followed up his impressive month of May with a strong and aggressive drive at Fontana in the season finale to earn a full time Indycar drive with Andretti Autosport for next season. With four Indy Lights wins and a third place season finish in 2013, he's clearly a star on the rise but he also has a lot to learn. His fearless style rankled his more experienced Andretti teammates in May on more than one occasion. I had two memorable encounters involving Carlos in 2013 and the first one involved listening in on a huddle among his teammates James Hinchcliffe, EJ Viso and Ryan Hunter-Reay after Munoz dive bombed one of them during Indy 500 practice in May. Apparently, no one told Carlos you can't (or shouldn't" run below the white line in Turn 1 or that passes during practice needed to be coordinated to avoid an incident. We all know how that turned out as the Andretti boys were strong all month and either Carlos or RHR could have won the 500 if the late caution flags had fallen differently.
My second encounter with Carlos was during the Mid Ohio weekend when the friends I was traveling with and I decided to hit a Mexican restaurant at the Belleville exit. After a few minutes, in walks Carlos with a few guys in Andretti gear and I said "Hey, it's Carlos!" as his group sat down at a table nearby. From the way he reacted, I don't think he expected anyone to recognize him. It was another one of those moments where it felt good to know people in the sport and be where racers were gathering on a race weekend.
At any rate, I'm glad to have had the chance to experience these kinds of moments while on assignment and I look forward to more of the same in the future. With Christmas now just a few days away and 2013 winding down, I still have a couple more blog posts to complete in order to finish my season reflections, so until then, here's a slideshow of my Indy Lights work this year to tide you over.