Michael Andretti: Good possibility Carlos Munoz will join Andretti Autosport

USA TODAY Sports

The defending Indianapolis 500 runner-up could make his full-time debut in the IndyCar Series for Andretti Autosport if Michael Andretti gets his way.

With Juan Pablo Montoya declining an offer from Andretti Autosport over the weekend, the team is now free to focus on other options, most notably its Indy Lights challenger, Carlos Munoz.

Team owner Michael Andretti told RACER Magazine on Thursday that the defending Indianapolis 500 runner-up will have a seat available in IndyCar next season and that he could be confirmed alongside Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay before the season finale at Auto Club Speedway in October.

"At the moment, he's in the plans, we're working on things to try to make it happen," Andretti said. "There is a good possibility he'll be here. Will he be a fourth car, fifth car? We don't know but we're working on it right now."

The younger Andretti and Hunter-Reay are currently the only two drivers confirmed for next season. The team is said to be close on finalizing a deal with EJ Viso and is still negotiating with James Hinchcliffe and sponsor Go Daddy.

Winning the Lights Championship unlocks a $500,000 scholarship that can be used towards the IndyCar Series.

Munoz is currently second in the standings and just two points behind Sage Karam with two races remaining. The graduation bonus will help but Andretti Autosport appears committed to the 21-year-old Colombian regardless of the outcome.

"Right now I'm quite confident I'll be moving up," Munoz told RACER. "I need to find some more budget for this, and Michael [Andretti] is helping me. The budget for the best teams is more than the other teams, so I'm trying to find the budget to drive with the best team."

Should Munoz be unable to find the full funding to afford a ride with the Andretti, Munoz appears content to take his services to another team in order to prove his value. But the consistent message is that, no matter what, Munoz will have a full-time ride next season.

"Of course I always want to be in a winning car, but if I can't find that much money, that's okay, I don't mind going to another team where I can show what I can do," he added. "Small teams don't have the same things as Andretti or Ganassi, but a small team like Schmidt has shown they can win. Dale Coyne can win.

"I won't be sad if I have to go to a smaller team, but I am trying to go to Andretti first and if I win the [Lights] championship, there's no excuse not to move up.

Andretti insisted from the start that the negotiations with Montoya would not affect those with Munoz. But it stands to reason that Montoya's backing out will make it easier to focus on securing the funding needed to run the rookie.

RACER previously reported that the team had secured 50 percent of the backing needed to run Montoya and perhaps some of that can be transferred to Munoz. Panther Racing has also been previously linked to Munoz, with team owner John Barnes inquiring about him when looking for JR Hildebrand's replacement.

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