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IndyCar 2016 driver review: Carlos Munoz

Firestone 600 - Qualifying

FORT WORTH, TX - JUNE 10: Carlos Munoz of Columbia, driver of the #26 Andretti Autosport Honda, sits in his car during Star-Telegram Qualifying for the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 10, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

Matt Hazlett

MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver roster in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series. Next up in 10th is Carlos Munoz, who was top Andretti Autosport driver in the points standings this year but remains uncertain of where he’ll land in 2017.

Carlos Munoz, No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2015: 13th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 25 Laps Led, 14.0 Avg. Start, 12.1 Avg. Finish
  • 2016: 10th Place, Best Finish 2nd, 1 Pole, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 50 Laps Led, 11.9 Avg. Start, 10.8 Avg. Finish

In preseason, I wrote that one of the goals for Carlos Munoz in his third full-time IndyCar season was to be less anonymous, and the Colombian achieved that largely with flying colors. He made it back into the top-10 in points, finished highest of the quartet of Andretti Autosport cars, and arguably could have won at Indianapolis – hence why he was so distraught when he ended second there to teammate Alexander Rossi.

Munoz had his usual fair share of standout moments and cut down on a couple early season mistakes as the year went on. His aggression at St. Petersburg and Barber triggered a pair of multi-car accidents, but he emerged from both of them unscathed on his own.

Andretti Autosport’s qualifying struggles were pronounced but Munoz did well to get within one tenth of a spot of Ryan Hunter-Reay in terms of average grid spot, 11.9 to 11.8. He outqualified the American on eight occasions, and that was nothing to scoff at. Doing so at some of Hunter-Reay’s traditional hunting grounds like Long Beach, Barber and Iowa spoke to his ability level to get on top of car setup even when the car wasn’t at its optimum potential.

This was also a more consistent Munoz than in years past. He didn’t ebb and flow as much as he had the past couple years, and his only DNF came at Phoenix, when he had a nightmare weekend with a heavy crash in practice and another accident roughly halfway through the race. He finished higher in points in 2014, but that owed more to his success in double-points scoring races than outright consistency.

Munoz is in a weird spot heading into the winter. At 24, he’s in that rare category where he’s young and experienced, has grown with a team but yet is uncertain about his future. Andretti Autosport would like to keep him, but the frequently bare sidepods on the No. 26 Honda this year served as a reminder of how hard the commercial side of the business can be. He remains, if not an outright top-level IndyCar driver - yet - Munoz is a driver who still has room to grow and build upon what was his best overall season yet in three full-time campaigns.

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