Montoya Masters Pocono IndyCar Challenge
LONG POND, Pa. – For the past week Juan Pablo Montoya has been charting his progress in his return to IndyCar racing by saying, “I’m getting there.”
On Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Montoya made it all the way back to Victory Lane.
The 1999 CART champion and 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner won Sunday’s Pocono IndyCar 500 Fueled by Sunoco at Pocono Raceway. It was his first IndyCar victory since the Motorola 300 at Gateway Int’l Raceway on Sept. 17, 2000. He also won that race from the pole.
It was the fastest 500-mile race in history with an average speed of 202.402 miles per hour. The previous record was 197.995 mph at Fontana in 2002 in the CART race won by Jimmy Vasser.
For Montoya, it was his 12th IndyCar win of his career and the third 500-mile win for the talented driver from Colombia. But the time between those victories makes this win noteworthy.
Montoya went 13 years, 9 months, 20 days between Indy car wins. Only two other drivers in Indy car history since 1909 have gone more than 10 years between wins.
Babe Stapp won at the Charlotte board track on Sept. 19, 1927. He did not win for almost 12 full years before he won on Aug. 27, 1939 at Milwaukee.
John Paul Jr. has gone the most years between wins. Paul won his first race in the Michigan 500 on July 17, 1983. More than 15 years later, on Sept. 20, 1998, he won his only other Indy car race at Texas Motor Speedway.
By leading six times for 45 laps and driving the final portion of the race without a front wing plate that was busted off when he ran into the back of Power during the final restart.
“It’s been a long road,” Montoya said. “It’s a lot harder than people realize because as I said the other day, driving open wheels is so different than what I’ve been driving the last few years, and it’s just ‑‑ it was going to take time. I don’t like jinxing it and saying, ‘Oh, it’s coming, it’s coming.’ I’d rather be let’s just keep working on it.
“I feel at this point we’ve got to step it up and work a little bit harder because I think we’re in a position now to win the championship. So we’ve really got to step it up.
“We’ve been having really good finishes and everything, but if we want to win the championship, we’ve got to make sure we perform a little better on the street courses and stuff like that. We haven’t run on short ovals so I have no idea what to expect. Hopefully it’s as good as this.”
It is Team Penske’s eighth Indy car race win at Pocono Raceway. Other Team Penske race wins were: Mark Donohue (1971), Tom Sneva (1977), Bobby Unser (1980), Rick Mears (1982, 1985 and 1987) and Danny Sullivan (1989).
“I think Roger is the man,” Montoya said of Penske. “It’s unbelievable everything he does. He’s head and shoulders above anybody else. That’s why everybody wants to be like him. He’s an example to anybody, and for me to be honest with you ‑ I’m not saying this because I run for him. I mean, I knew Roger a little bit, but now that I work with him, it’s unbelievable. He knows everybody’s names.
“The way he does things, you’re not surprised why you’re kicking everybody’s ass; put it that way.”
Montoya defeated teammate Helio Castroneves by 2.340 seconds. Castroneves’ finish combined with teammate Will Power getting a driving-through penalty for blocking Castroneves on lap 171 made for a big points gain for the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner.
Power finished 10th and dropped from a 39-point lead over Castroneves to a tie for the top spot as both drivers have 446 points.
If Power had not been penalized, all three of his drivers could have swept the podium.
“Obviously it’s a shame for Will, but these guys are racers,” Penske said. “You tell them, ‘Let’s keep each other on the track.’ But that was a little tight there for us.”