SPEEDWAY — Indianapolis 500 race winner Tony Kanaan was not the only driver whom had a good Sunday.
The four rookies in the 33-car field exceeded many’s expectations and showed few signs of first-timers. Carlos Muñoz (second), AJ Allmendinger (seventh), Tristan Vautier (16th) and Conor Daly (22nd) each ended with solid showings in their first Indy 500.
21-year-old Muñoz especially impressed in his 500 debut, let alone first IZOD IndyCar Series race.
The Columbian started and finished second, led 12 laps and was the highest finishing car of the strong five-car Andretti Autosport team.
The driver of the No. 26 Unistraw Chevrolet was a threat to win late and was disappointed with how the race ended.
With Muñoz in third and three laps to go, a Dario Franchitti wreck in Turn 1 brought out the race-ending caution. The late yellow flag prevented what most likely would have been a frantic finish on a day where there were a record-breaking 68 lead changes.
“I really wanted to fight for the win,” Muñoz said. “Maybe I could win, maybe not, but I really wanted to fight. I have nothing be ashamed of. To be second and a rookie and the best of the team is a great job.”
Muñoz was directly behind eventual race winner Kanaan before what was the final restart. Kanaan, who was second on that restart, was well aware of the young gun directly behind.
“He was going to learn a lot in the last two laps, I can tell you that,” Kanaan said laughing. “He was going to love this place, but he was going to have to come back.”
Kanaan said the pair have a good relationship away from IndyCar as they hang out and race go-karts together in Miami. Muñoz has a profound amount of respect for the Brazilian and learned from watching him win The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.