TMS Media Relations | May 30, 2014
FORT WORTH, Texas (May 30, 2014) – Juan Pablo Montoya has spent the last seven years competing at Texas Motor Speedway in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car, but despite logging thousands of miles on the 1.5-mile oval it was like a new track to him during his most recent visit.
Montoya has moved back to open-wheel racing and was part of the 18-driver Verizon IndyCar Series contingent that visited Texas Motor Speedway on April 16 in preparation for the Firestone 600 on Saturday, June 7. Driving the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet for powerhouse Team Penske, Montoya continues to get reacquainted with the open-wheel variety where he excelled prior to his stint with Chip Ganassi Racing in NASCAR.
“There are weeks, like here for example, places that I have been in the Cup car before makes it harder,” said Montoya, who was a multiple race winner in Formula One as well as a former CART champion and Indianapolis 500 winner. “It’s tough because it is completely different. The arcs are different. In the (Sprint) Cup car here especially in (Turns) 1 and 2, it’s right on the paint. The closer you are to the paint – especially in 1 and 2 past center – the better you are off the corner. I don’t want to try on this one because if I get it wrong it is going to hurt.”
The test also was a reminder of how blazing fast Indy cars are on high-banked ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway, where they are roughly 20 to 30 miles per hour faster than the Sprint Cup cars.
“It just felt very different, but it’s the grip level,” Montoya said. “You kind of get used to your mind saying, ‘This is good’ and then you drive an Indy car and then you go ‘Oh.’ If you have a little car and you put new tires on and you think it’s great and then all of a sudden you drive a Ferrari you go, ‘Oh, okay I get it.’ Mine still sucks.”
Through three races of the Verizon IndyCar Series, Montoya currently is 11th in the championship standings. He has one top-five finish – fourth on the streets of Long Beach – but had his struggles in the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., (15th) and this past Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. (21st).
“I think the biggest thing is qualifying so far for me,” Montoya said. “Starting where we are starting at every week is making my life very, very, very hard. I’ve got to figure out qualifying.”
He has made progress each week in qualifying, starting 18th at St. Pete, 16th at Long Beach and eighth at Barber Motorsports Park. His day at Barber took a turn for the worse when he went off course midway through the race that brought out a caution.
“We were going through the esses, and I was right behind the No. 9 car (Scott Dixon),” Montoya said. “He had a big moment, and I lifted then ended up having a bigger moment myself. I went in and I kind of referenced and measured with the wet, and I did the same thing I was doing in wet. He lifted more than I expected and I had to lift a lot more and it started tail slapping. After that, something broke in the car…I don't know what happened."
Despite the slow start, Montoya is not concerned about anyone questioning if he can return to his previous open-wheel form at 38 years old and after being out of an Indy car since 2000.
“I don’t worry about the garage and people,” Montoya said. “(Team owner) Roger (Penske) is happy and Roger is committed and I’m committed. We want to make this work and as long as Roger and Verizon and all the sponsors are happy, I’m happy.
“I know we will get better results, and with better results the better the season is going to be. I know there are going to be weekends where I’m going to show up and I’m going to be better and there are going to be weekends when I show up and I’m going to suck and I’m okay with that. I just have to understand how to make things better. I’m just getting a lot more comfortable.”
Team Penske driver Will Power enters the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a wealth of momentum, finishing in the top five in the first three races of the season highlighted by a season-opening victory at St. Petersburg (Fla.). Power sits 18 points ahead of second-place Ryan Hunter-Reay in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings and while Power is pleased with the team’s start to the season he understands starting a season on a good note is only as good as finishing the season strong.
Power finished runner-up in three consecutive seasons from 2010-12, finishing a mere three points back of champion Hunter-Reay in 2012 and just five behind champion Dario Franchitti in 2010. For Power, who was one of 18 drivers participating in an open Firestone tire test at Texas Motor Speedway in preparation for June’s Firestone 600 earlier this month, he is not focused on the points but rather victories.
“The team worked pretty hard in the offseason and kind of continued with the way we finished (last season),” Power said. “It just seems like doing the job and not thinking of the points each race and going out to have fun. I don’t want to think about points all year. I don’t care. I just want to win as many races as possible and that is my mindset.”
Power’s hot start could continue through Texas Motor Speedway where he has a victory (2011 Firestone Twin 275s – Twin 2) and four consecutive top-10 finishes. Team Penske also has seen its share of success at “The Great American Speedway!” as the organization has won six of the previous nine Verizon IndyCar Series races held at the 1.5-mile speedway.
As the Verizon IndyCar Series enters the month of May and its attention shifts toward Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Indianapolis 500, no driver is more motivated to conquer the historic 2.5-mile than Andretti Autosport driver Marco Andretti.
For Andretti, Indianapolis Motor Speedway has provided its share of agonizing moments for one of motorsports’ most recognized families, so much so that the family’s troubles have been labeled as the “Andretti Curse.” The Andretti family has competed in a total of 68 Indianapolis 500 races since 1965 with patriarch Mario; sons Michael and Jeff; nephew John; and grandson Marco. The family's lone victory came in 1969 with Mario at the wheel and since that victory the family has experienced 44 years of countless misfortunes.
The youngest Andretti driver has not been immune to the “Andretti Curse” during his eight career appearances in the Indianapolis 500. He came up just short of smashing the curse during his rookie season in 2006 when he was leading on the final lap only to get passed by Sam Hornish Jr. for the victory.
For Andretti, this year’s visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway is less about the past shortfalls and more about focusing on the present.
“The biggest mentality change for me going into 2013 was to stop looking at those type of things because your head is just not right and it works on your confidence,” Andretti said. “You need to work forward and really look at the potential of what you have on that given weekend and try to maximize it rather than saying ‘We could have, would have, should have.’ When you are saying that I don’t think your mind is right. I know it wasn’t in 2012 because you might push too hard, you might make different mistakes that maybe you wouldn’t. You need to look forward.”
Looking for the unique Mother’s Day gift that mom will never forget? Give her the chance to ride next to a Verizon IndyCar Series star during driver introductions for the Firestone 600 on Saturday, June 7, at Texas Motor Speedway.
From today through Saturday, May 10, Texas Motor Speedway is offering fans who purchase tickets to the Firestone 600 a chance to send mom on a pre-race parade lap with defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, defending Firestone 600 champion Helio Castroneves, 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport drivers Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe, or the newest addition to Team Penske, former CART champion and Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya.
Six winners will be announced on Mother’s Day (May 11). Season-ticket holders as well as anyone who purchased tickets prior to the promotion also are eligible. To purchase tickets to the Firestone 600, visit www.texasmotorspeedway.com or call the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500.
Team-Penske, Firestone-600, Verizon-IndyCar-Series, NASCAR-Sprint-Cup-Series, Juan-Pablo-Montoya