Munoz: Foyt drive "the clearest choice, but nothing is signed"
Despite spending yesterday at Phoenix International Raceway testing for Andretti Autosport-Honda, Carlos Munoz says he’s hopeful of signing with AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet for 2017.
Aside from a one-off race for the now-defunct Panther team in 2013, Munoz has driven only for Andretti Autosport since turning his attention to U.S. open-wheel racing in 2011. Two impressive seasons in Indy Lights, plus qualifying and finishing second on his IndyCar debut in the 2013 Indy 500, led to him gaining a full-time IndyCar ride on Michael Andretti’s team in 2014. Over the last three seasons he has twice finished in the Top 10 in the championship, and the year he didn’t, he still scored his first victory, at a rain-soaked Detroit.
However, given that the team needs its fourth driver – besides Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and Marco Andretti – to bring funding, Munoz says it’s unlikely he can stay.
He told Motorsport.com: “Talks are going well with AJ Foyt Racing, they’re going in the right direction and they’re the clearest choice. But we haven’t signed anything yet, so we’re keeping our eyes open for other options, because you never know.
“I think it would be a great opportunity though."
Munoz says that Foyt’s near-certain deal with Chevrolet will bring more positives to the team, despite the fact that he would have to learn a new aerokit, having had experience only with HPD’s version.
“I think a different aerokit is something you can adapt to quite quick,” he said, “so that wouldn’t be a problem. The roadcourse aerokit of Chevy’s is much better than the Honda, so I think that would be a big plus. But again, I’m waiting to see if that deal definitely happens.
“And then I know AJ and Larry are reorganizing the whole team: I want to see what happens there.”
One of Foyt’s options as a race engineer is believed to be Tom German, who ran Alexander Rossi last year. Munoz said he could be a good choice, despite the fact that German, too, would have to learn the Chevrolet aerokit.
“Yes, I think Tom’s a clever guy, a good engineer, and he did really good stuff at Andretti,” he said. “He introduced some good things and also a good way to work. But I honestly don’t know if he’s going to the Foyt team or not.”
Money not a motivation… but it matters
Munoz is upfront about the fact that being expected to bring funding for a ride is a situation he’s eager to escape.
“I have been bringing backing from some companies, that was about 30 percent of the budget,” he said. “But I absolutely do not have the budget Andretti are looking for now. It’s really hard to find a big sponsor in Colombia.
“But anyway, there’s a mentality that I want to change, you know? It’s so hard to get paid in IndyCar, to actually be a professional racecar driver, without bringing a sponsor. Me, my manager and my family, we want to see the light at the end of the tunnel after we invested so much in my career in the past.
“So wherever I go, we want to see that light next year! Getting paid is not my prime motivation, it is to feel that I’m a professional and that the team wants me for my abilities, not just how much money I can bring. Because, like you say, once you come in with money, it’s hard to change the mentality among team owners of, ‘Oh, that guy can bring this amount of money.’
“So that’s what I want next year – to be a real, professional racecar driver. I think I’ve shown already in my races that I deserve to be seen as a professional IndyCar driver.”
Nonetheless, Munoz said he will always be grateful to Andretti Autosport for reviving a career that had stalled in Europe.
He commented: “Andretti gave me back my career, I would say, and my five years have been good there. But I think Foyt – or wherever I go – would be a very good opportunity for me. My role will change, because at Andretti everyone was looking to Ryan [Hunter-Reay] for direction.
“Getting in at the start of a team being restructured and a team getting new equipment with the Chevy aerokit – probably, not definitely yet! – would really motivate me.
“But, like I say, nothing is signed yet. We will see, hopefully in two or three weeks.”
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