Montoya arrived as the defending champion of the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) circuit — the series the current IndyCar series broke from in 1996 as the Indy Racing League — and already had a Formula 1 ticket. In fact, IRL founder Tony George argued at that time that Montoya’s crushing win didn’t establish CART superiority over IRL because Montoya was CART’s best and “he’ll be driving Formula 1 next year.”
“It opened the mind of many youngsters like me,” said Sebastian Saavedra, who’ll start 27th on Sunday. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, if you just try hard enough, you’ll be able to do whatever is out there.”
Saavedra and Munoz grew up about five miles from each other in Bogota, raced against each other in karting and were teammates last season in Indy Lights. Munoz, upon returning from five years of racing in various European Formula feeder series, decided to plant himself in Miami, where his family had a vacation home during his youth.
As comfortable as Munoz is in Miami, he admits he will be nervous Sunday. On no other race day does sheer crowd size, spectacle and weight of tradition make its presence known to drivers as it does at Indianapolis. Saavedra likened it to being in a giant gladiator stadium.
“On Sunday, with all those people, I will be nervous because it’s the first time,” Munoz said. “But once I go inside the car, I think my mind will be clear to concentrate and do my best performance. And, let’s see what it’s like to see more than 400,000 people around there. Michael [Andretti, team owner and former driver] told me on Race Day, the front straightaway seems smaller with that many people. So, let’s see how that sensation is.”