Carlos Munoz graduates to IndyCar Series with Andretti Autosport

Robert Laberge

After finishing third in the Firestone Indy Lights Series this season, Carlos Munoz is moving up to the IndyCar Series full-time next season.

Defending Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Carlos Munoz will compete full-time in the IndyCar Series next season for Andretti Autosport, the team released in a statement on Monday afternoon.

Munoz took the racing world by storm back in May, when as a rookie, he qualified second for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and backed it up with a runner-up finish after contending late for the victory.

The 21-year-old from Bogota, Colombia cited fellow countryman Juan Pablo Montoya as his idol in May and quickly established a reputation for driving like the international star too, showing an errant disregard for the conservative approach most rookies were supposed to take in their first start at Indianapolis.

Montoya won his only start in the Indianapolis 500 -- during the 2000 season.

Munoz came up one position short of matching his idol's feat in this year's Indianapolis 500 but has been perceived as the IndyCar Series' top prospect ever since. He has also won six races and six poles in two seasons of Firestone Indy Lights competition and now he's arrived to the major leagues.

"I don't have the words to express right now how I feel," Munoz said in a team news release. "After so many years of racing and all the sacrifices -- leaving my family in Colombia and going to Europe to race, then coming here to the U.S. -- but finally I am a professional race car driver in the maximum category in America, IndyCar.

"To be a part of this team, they believe a lot in me, and to pay them back would be to bring them great results. With that, I have to work hard in all aspects -- mentally and physically."

Munoz is set to join a team that includes 2012 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe. In doing so, he has also earned the chance to compete against Montoya as he returns to open-wheel racing following a seven-year stint in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti enjoyed watching him race for the team (at Indianapolis and again in the finale at Auto Club Speedway) and says that his newest driver earned the spot.

"Carlos stepped up this season and showed outstanding potential on track in Indy and Fontana," said Andretti. "We are confident that his success in Indy Lights will carry on into his IndyCar career."

Munoz's car number and sponsorship package will be announced at a later date.

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