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Indy 500 runner-up off to minors after dazzling debut

By Steve Keating

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Colombian rookie Carlos Munoz enjoyed his time in the Brickyard spotlight with a dazzling runner-up finish at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday but was headed back to motor racing's minor leagues to continue his apprenticeship.

Munoz arrived at Indianapolis Motor Speedway a promising unknown but leaves having confirmed his credentials as a future star after winning plenty of praise along with an Indy 500 rookie award.

"At the beginning I was a little bit nervous with the pit stops but in the end, the car was great, and it's a good second place," Munoz told reporters.

"Hopefully in the future, I will be able to drink the milk (that goes to the Indy 500 winner). Right now I'm thirsty."

It was a busy week for the 21-year-old driver, who pulled double duty racing in the Indy Lights (IndyCar's feeder series) on Friday and in Sunday's 200-lap main event.

Making his IndyCar debut, Munoz backed up a spectacular qualifying effort, taking second spot on the grid, with an equally brilliant performance in the main event, where he was runner-up behind Tony Kanaan in a sensational IndyCar debut.

"I really wanted to fight for the win. Maybe I could win. Maybe not, but I really wanted to fight," said Munoz "To be second and a rookie and the best of the team is a great job."

While Munoz's current full-time job is running for Andretti Autosport in the Indy Lights, where he is the series leader, team owner Michael Andretti gave the youngster the chance to show his stuff on the big stage.

Munoz made the best of his opportunity outshining Andretti Autosport regulars James Hinchcliffe, winner of two races this season, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti.

A fearless competitor, the sprawling Brickyard could not intimidate the Colombian who posted an average speed of 187.431 mph, the fastest ever for an Indianapolis 500 rookie.

But despite leading the race five different times, Munoz will have to wait for another call up from his boss.

"Right now let's wait and see what the future hold for me," said Munoz, who grew up idolizing Formula One great Ayrton Senna. "Right now I have to do my job and my job is Indy Lights.

"This is one race, I got more experience and it came out really good.

"I am not sure what the plan is so I have to concentrate on my Indy Lights."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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