Monday, February 19, 2018
Sports

Munoz stuns with Indy 500 finish

INDIANAPOLIS — Carlos Munoz finished second Sunday at the Indianapolis 500 as a 21-year-old rookie.

Now, it's back to the minors.

Munoz finished behind Tony Kanaan in a thrilling race that finished under a yellow flag, silencing the skeptics who fretted the young Colombian merely had a fast car but not nearly enough experience to handle his IndyCar debut on such a challenging track.

He stayed out of trouble and led five times for 12 laps. But this was a one-off for Munoz in IndyCar, at least for now. His main job is driving for Michael Andretti's team in Indy Lights, a struggling developmental series that has only about 10 regular competitors.

That series, which Munoz leads, will remain his primary focus.

"I don't know. Maybe Michael will have something (in IndyCar)," Munoz said. "But right now, Indy Lights is still my main program."

When the caution came out with two laps left, all Munoz could do was follow Kanaan across the start-finish line.

"I was a bit sad inside the car," Munoz said. "I prefer to finish the race fighting for the win. Maybe it would work out, maybe not, but I would prefer a checkered flag to see if I had a shot."

As for his IndyCar future: "It's up to him," Munoz said with a smile regarding Andretti.

No fourth: Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti could not join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears as the only four-time Indy winners. Castroneves finished sixth after briefly leading. Franchitti had a poor day, finishing 23rd after bringing out the final caution when he hit the wall. "Our car was never really good all day," the 2012 winner said. "In traffic, we couldn't make anything happen."

Long days: St. Petersburg resident Tristan Vautier finished 16th, on the lead lap, in his first 500. Fellow Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais, also a St. Petersburg resident, had his race end because of damage after contact with the inside of the pit wall; he was 29th.

Pit stops: Marco Andretti took the IndyCar standings lead by 11 points over Takuma Sato, who came in as the leader but finished 13th Sunday, and by 16 points over Castroneves. … Indianapolis native and pole-sitter Ed Carpenter led a race-high 37 laps but fell back through the field in the second half of the race and wound up 10th. … There were 19 cars on the lead lap at the finish, tying the record set in 2009.

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