Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have announced today that Carlos Muñoz will be driving as the substitute driver for the injured Robert Wickens in the final two races of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series. The Columbian will be behind the wheel of the #6 Honda for this weekend’s Grand Prix of Portland as well as the season finale at Sonoma Raceway on September 16.
Wickens was injured in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on August 19 when a side-by-side battle with Ryan Hunter-Reay ended with Wickens being sent into the catch fencing on the outside of turn two. His car disintegrated upon impact with the fencing, with Robert being airlifted to hospital as a result of his injuries.
Robert broke both of his legs and his right arm in the crash and has also undergone surgery for a spinal injury too. He continues to recover in hospital, where the last update was that he was breathing without medical assistance and communicating with his family. In prior statements, it was said that it is impossible to determine the severity of his spinal injuries at this time, meaning that it could be a while before we see Wickens back behind the wheel.
In the meantime, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will field Carlos Muñoz in Wickens’ #6 Honda. The Columbian stated today that he was “grateful” for the opportunity to return to the Verizon IndyCar Series and that he would “pushing hard” to do well for Robert and the team:
“Robert and his family have been in my prayers and I continue to pray for his recovery,” Muñoz said. “I’m very grateful that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have entrusted me to compete in the Lucas Oil Honda for the last two races of the season. I am looking forward to pushing hard for a great result for the team and for Robert.”
Carlos has competed in fifty-eight races in the Verizon IndyCar Series to date, having made his debut at the 2013 Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport before going on to compete in four full-time seasons from 2014 to the end of last year.
He spent his first three full seasons with Andretti, earning his first career victory at the 2015 Duel in Detroit as well as five other podium finishes. One of those including a heartbreaking second place in the 2016 Indianapolis 500 after his team-mate, Alexander Rossi, stole the win on a fuel-saving run.
Muñoz was dropped by Andretti at the end of 2016. He made the switch to A.J. Foyt Enterprises for 2017, but he was only able to break into the top ten on six occasions, with his best finish of the season coming at Long Beach when he took seventh place. After the season finished, Carlos would find himself out of a full-time drive for this year, with Foyt instead electing for a fresh line-up of Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist.
Muñoz made a one-off return to the series for this year’s Indianapolis 500, with his former team Andretti Autosport fielding him in the #29 car for his sixth start in the famous race. He would take away a decent seventh-place finish, but he would be once again be consigned to the sidelines until now.
Muñoz will undoubtedly be hoping that he can use this time in the #6 Honda to his advantage. He will want to again show the teams of the Verizon IndyCar Series that he deserves another shot; as a decent result in the final two races could put him on the market for a full-time return in 2019.
Muñoz’s first run with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will come this Friday in the opening two practice sessions for the 2018 Grand Prix of Portland. The race itself will take place on Sunday, September 2.