Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
July 9, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to today's IndyCar conference call. We'll be joined by two guests today. First Carlos Muñoz, and later Helio Castroneves.
First we'll start with the Firestone Indy Lights points leader. Carlos, welcome to the call.
CARLOS MUÑOZ: Thank you for having me here. My first time, so thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Carlos leads the points by four over Sage Karam following his dominant win at Pocono Raceway on Saturday.
Carlos, talk a little bit about the season so far. You have three wins, including the win at Pocono, five poles, but your points lead is pretty small at four points. Are you happy with the way the season has gone so far?
CARLOS MUÑOZ: Yeah, I think it's been a really good season for me. I've been four, five times in the pole position. In St. Petersburg, the first race, I made a mistake, I didn't win. After that, was really good, Long Beach. Was a perfect weekend. Barber, also was first.
Then Indy, I was leading the whole race, but I couldn't do anything in the last corner, the four-wide we had in the end. I couldn't do anything.
After that we went (indiscernible). I think last year we struggle a lot. I think this year, Milwaukee, we struggle all the weekend. In the end of the race I could catch up and I made second.
In Iowa, we did the pole position, everything, the car was good. I don't know really what happened on the race.
Pocono, again, I went back on top with that win. It was a perfect weekend for me since the practice. I'm really confident, no?
Now we start again the circuit. So far I have triple position in circuit. So we will see. Still five races to go and we still have to pushing a lot.
THE MODERATOR: The next race for Firestone Indy Lights is Toronto. You raced there last year. What do you think about the circuit in Toronto and what do you expect from your competitors on Saturday?
CARLOS MUÑOZ: It's a nice circuit. I like it a lot. Last year was my first time. I like it. I was really fast. The car was really good.
Qualifying was a little strange because it was rain. Unfortunately I did a mistake on the race and I crashed. But I think I'm more confident this year. I think also the car is stronger. We worked a lot over the winter testing. We will see for sure. All the Schmidt guys will be at front from the circuit from the Star Mazda. They are going to be strong, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Finally, I know that you're focusing on the Firestone Indy Lights championship. How important is it for you to gain maximum points each weekend to get that championship this year?
CARLOS MUÑOZ: It's real important for me, no? Especially because this is what America have, the Indy Lights program have, that if you win, you allowed to go after the IndyCar. Firestone, everyone helps you.
Also I need to have a championship. Also to have a championship also is motivate you for the mind mentally to move up.
For the team, Michael, the whole Andretti team, everybody wants to win this championship in Indy Lights because it's been a lot of year without winning it. So they really think they have a shot to do it and they want me to win the championship, and focus next year on a full-time season in IndyCar.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up to questions for Carlos Muñoz.
Q. Can you talk about the year that you're having and Sage is having, the competition between the two of you, as well as what it says about how young the drivers have become in terms of their doing well on the circuit.
CARLOS MUÑOZ: It's been a really nice competition, not only from Sage, but Jack Hawksworth. Sage has been really consistent in all the races, has been in almost all the podiums this year. That's why he's been really in the top.
Me, I missed St. Pete. He didn't miss any of the races. That's why he's in the top.
We'll see in the circuits, no? He was really quick in the ovals. I think he'll be until the last race of the season, so hopefully it will be a nice fight.
Q. I couldn't imagine how excited you were to run your first Indy 500 two months ago. How much would it mean to win the Indy 500?
CARLOS MUÑOZ: It was an awesome experience. The whole month was really good for me. Since the beginning, I was really quick. I adapt really quick to the car, to the circuit.
I just had great qualifying. Before the Indy 500, I didn't have any results. My main goal was to finish the race, to be the last leader, to don't make any mistakes. And the mentality, I start the race, I was starting the front row. I knew it was a long race, difficult race. And pit stops, especially, because I never had done any pit stops in my life. It was my first time there.
After the last pit stop, I exit from the pit lane, I was fourth. I say, Yeah, I have a shot to win this. I have a really good car that Andretti give me.
For sure the last yellow flag was really sad especially in the car because Juan Pablo, when I talked to him, he said to me you have this opportunity because you have a nice, really good car. You never know when you're going to have again another strong car. So you have to take this opportunity. I was thinking that. I was a little bit sad.
I don't know if I could win because it's always easy to say, Yeah, if it wasn't for the yellow flag, I will be P1. But is not my case. It was nice to fight for it, you know. I prefer to finish third, fourth, fifth, but at least go from the car and say I fight for it, I give everything on track. I didn't at the end win.
But I'm just 21 years old. Hopefully I will have more chance. If everything works out good, I'll be with a really good team next year and will fight again for the win.
Q. You mentioned about Juan Pablo Montoya. Do you look up to him like a mentor when it comes to racing?
CARLOS MUÑOZ: He's been the greatest Colombian driver in the history, no? He always has been an example for me and a lot of Colombian drivers. He won the 500 the first year. I remember when I was small when he won it. It was always a dream for me.
Q. Carlos, did you ever imagine having as much success as you have had already at this point in your career?
CARLOS MUÑOZ: Really, before last year in Europe, in Formula 3, nothing, I had bad luck. The team, we struggled a lot. I moved back to America to have good results really. Really this year has been the greatest year of my career. I didn't expect that much.
For sure my main goal was to win the Indy Lights title because I was strong, but not to finish second in the Indy 500, and to be so dominant as I've been in the Indy lights right now.
So far I can say it's been my best season ever and I hope it finish that way.
Q. Carlos, as the year comes to a close, with how well you've run in Indy Lights, what you did also in the Indy 500, has there been anything coming in store for you as far as moving up towards the end of the year? What is in the works for you maybe next year?
CARLOS MUÑOZ: Really with Michael and everything, we sit down, we talk after Indy. We have the same conclusion as everyone: that the main goal is the championship of Indy Lights. The team need it, I need it, because the prize that Indy Lights gives you is quite important for the next year and everything.
We prefer to do a really good season, with the pre-season test, good testing and everything. It's racing. When you are with a good team, you have to go out and win. You don't have the excuse the car was good. This is racing, so since the beginning you have to be really strong, no?
We're trying to work for Sonoma, but I don't think it will happen. They want me really to concentrate on the Indy Lights. All the races Michael say, Concentrate, concentrate Indy Lights. That's what I'm doing now.
Q. As you grow and mature as a driver, whether it's road courses, ovals, street courses, what do you consider your strengths or weaknesses as you try to grow as a driver?
CARLOS MUÑOZ: Ovals, really last year was my first time I ever race in ovals. My first one was Indy, my first race. I end up second. This year in the speedways I been really good.
I think also in Barber I been really quick. In the road courses I won already.
I think my weakness point now is the small ovals like Iowa and Milwaukee. I haven't really been competitive as much as the other ones. I think I have to still improving on that.
But this is America, no, you have to be consistent in all kinds of circuits or ovals to win the championship.
Q. Carlos, with your good success in the Indy 500 and in Indy Lights also, what do you consider has been the most challenging thing for you so far and what do you expect going forward will be most challenging when you step up?
CARLOS MUÑOZ: What do you mean about challenging?
Q. Challenging as far as maybe something to overcome, something you felt really good about overcoming that seemed to be the most difficult in Indy or Indy Lights, or just driving in general.
CARLOS MUÑOZ: For sure, in Indy Lights, we did a lot of pre-season tests. We worked really hard pre-season tests. We improve a lot the car. We been really strong about that. Also I've been preparing a lot mentally, physically. I've been losing a lot of weight, getting lots of muscles. That's really part of my improving this year, no, because I'm mentally stronger, physically more stronger than last year. So that help me a lot.
About the IndyCar, the Indy 500 month was for me really challenging because it's a month that consume you a lot. You are all the time in the car. You have media, you have to go there, there and there. So for me was a really hard month. After the race I was like really, really tired, because you have accumulation of a lot of hours of training and being in the car. So it was really challenging for me that month. It paid really good all that hard work.
Q. Can you talk about when you were growing up, is this what you wanted to do from an early age? Was there a point in time when you switched from another sport to become more serious about auto racing?
CARLOS MUÑOZ: Yeah, really when I was 11 years old, I knew what I wanted to do was a racecar driver, no? Of course, when you are small, you want to be a professional racecar driver in IndyCar or Formula One.
In 11 years old, I left my family in Colombia and went to live in Europe by my own with my driver/coach in Spain. It was really tough for me and my family. I was thousands and thousands of miles away. I think that's really where I did my decision to do a professional racecar driver and sacrifice everything for it.
Q. How hard was that, being so young, to do that?
CARLOS MUÑOZ: It's hard. It's the sacrifice as a driver you have to do. You know you are not a normal kid. You are different from the other kids, you know.
But it helped me a lot. I'm really matured. I had a really great family there in Europe with the (indiscernible) family. They been my manager now. They help me a lot as a driver and also a lot as a person. I'm really grateful for them. I think that's right now the results are because of all that training since I was small.
Q. What was your coach's name?
CARLOS MUÑOZ: He's still my coach. We've been since I was eight years old we start together. Portado (phonetic). A racing family. His brother was racing in the World Series. He was a driver, but unfortunately the sponsor stop so he had to stop racing. He's still with me right now. He came here to live with me here in Miami.
THE MODERATOR: Seeing as we have no further questions for Carlos, we'll thank you for your time and wish you the best of luck this weekend in Toronto.
CARLOS MUÑOZ: Thank you for having me here and bye.
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