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Montoya Makes Good On IOU To Roger Penske

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 24 2015
Juan Pablo Montoya put Roger Penske back in Victory Circle at Indy on Sunday. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Juan Pablo Montoya put Roger Penske back in Victory Circle at Indy on Sunday. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Mike Harris | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

INDIANAPOLIS – Juan Pablo Montoya repaid team owner Roger Penske for believing in him with a victory Sunday in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.

bugindy500Montoya won the 500 as a rookie in 2000 while driving for Penske rival Chip Ganassi. But the Colombian driver then left IndyCar racing, first for Formula One and then NASCAR.

Now, 15 years later, he is again the Indy champion, this time extending Penske’s record for wins in what many consider the biggest race in the world to a mind-boggling 16.

But it wasn’t an easy win as Montoya had to overcome an accident near the beginning of the race and a misstep in the pits as well as outdueling teammate Will Power and Ganassi driver Scott Dixon over the last 100 laps.

“Roger and this team, they gave me a chance a year ago and I’m glad I’m proving them right,’’ Montoya said. “This one we had to work for really hard. It’s exciting. We made a couple of mistakes early, but we got our composure back.’’

“It was fun,’’ Montoya said. “These guys at Team Penske did an amazing job. When I came through the field, I knew I had a good car. The fight there at the
end, that was awesome.’’

He added, “This is what racing and IndyCar is all about. Awesome racing.’’

The 78-year-old Penske, who rarely shows much emotion, appeared elated as the Chevrolet-power winner crossed the yard of bricks finish line.

“Ganassi was so strong all day long and they had a smart driver in Dixon,’’ Penske said. “Our guys stayed in there, and Montoya came from all the way in back. You give that guy the bit and put it in his mouth and, as your know, he doesn’t give up.’’

Montoya, who led 167 of the 200 laps in 2000, led only nine laps this time and didn’t take the lead for good on Sunday until lap 197, shooting from third to first with a pair of breath-taking outside passes on the 2 ½-mile oval, then holding on to the top spot to the finish line.

He crossed the line just 0.10 seconds – about one car-length – ahead of Power. Montoya averaged 161.341 mph in the race slowed by sixth caution flags for a total of 47 laps.

“I’m very blessed to be a Penske driver,’’ Montoya said. “They give you all the tools to win and all the great people to work with.’’

Charlie Kimball, who ran a solid race, managed to squeeze past teammate Dixon near the end to finish third, with Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti fifth and sixth.

Helio Castroneves, another Penske driver, fell short in his try for a fourth 500 victory, finishing seventh.

A year ago, Penske took a chance on Montoya, whose NASCAR career was very pedestrian, As it turned out, last year’s Indy 500 was his first oval race for Penske and he qualified 10th and finished fifth, giving the team an idea that he could be a serious contender again with some time in the car.

Considerably more comfortable this year, Montoya came into Sunday’s race leading the series points and as one of the favorites to win.

But Montoya’s race nearly ended on lap seven when Simona de Silvestro rammed the back of his car while driving under caution, nearly knocking off a piece of the Penske car’s bodywork.

The caution was extended and Montoya was able to pit and have his rear wing assembly replaced, but he fell all the way to 30th in the 33-car field before the restart.

He charged back into the top 15 before making a mistake on his first pit stop, sliding through his pit on lap 41. This time, he came out of the pits in 18th.

But there was no holding the 39-year-old Colombian backon Sunday as he charged into contention by lap 100, chasing pole-winner Dixon and Power, who had dominated the early part of the race along with Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud.

Montoya led for the first time under the green flag on lap 165, passing Dixon for the top spot.

But he and Power and Dixon swapped the top spot six times in the final 25 laps before Montoya took the lead for good.

Dixon, who led a race-high 84 laps, said he faded at the end because his handling began to go away.

“When I really needed to go, I couldn’t get it done,’’ the 2008 Indy winner said. “Every time I came to (turn) two and even (turn) four, I couldn’t breath it.’’

After several spectacular crashes in practice that saw race cars flying through the air and put everybody on edge heading into Sunday, everyone stayed on the ground.

There were several crashes in the race, including one on pit road in which two crewmen were knocked down by the sliding race car of James Davison. Neither of the crewmen was seriously injured and there were no drivers injured.

Results Sunday of the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (15) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 200, Running
2. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 200, Running
3. (14) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 200, Running
4. (1) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 200, Running
5. (17) Graham Rahal, Honda, 200, Running
6. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
7. (5) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
8. (10) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 200, Running
9. (9) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
10. (3) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12. (31) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 200, Running
13. (24) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
14. (23) Townsend Bell, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (16) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 200, Running
16. (26) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 200, Running
17. (20) Alex Tagliani, Honda, 200, Running
18. (19) James Jakes, Honda, 200, Running
19. (18) Simona de Silvestro, Honda, 200, Running
20. (11) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 200, Running
21. (6) Justin Wilson, Honda, 199, Running
22. (25) Pippa Mann, Honda, 197, Running
23. (27) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 175, Contact
24. (28) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 175, Contact
25. (29) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 175, Contact
26. (4) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 151, Contact
27. (33) James Davison, Honda, 116, Mechanical
28. (32) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 116, Mechanical
29. (13) Oriol Servia, Honda, 112, Contact
30. (12) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 112, Contact
31. (30) Bryan Clauson, Chevrolet, 61, Contact
32. (21) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 0, Contact
33. (22) Conor Daly, Honda, 0, Mechanical

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 161.341 mph
Time of Race: 3:05:56.5286
Margin of victory: 0.1046 of a second.
Cautions: 6 for 47
Lead changes: 37 among 10 drivers
Lap Leaders:
Dixon 1-18
Kanaan 19-20
Dixon 21
Kanaan 22-25
Dixon 26-34
Pagenaud 35-36
Power 37-38
Montoya 39-40
Dixon 41-66
Pagenaud 67-70
Dixon 71
Pagenaud 72
Kanaan 73-74
Dixon 75
Kanaan 76-97
Pagenaud 98-99
Castroneves 100-101
Pagenaud 102-123
Power 124
Pagenaud 125
Dixon 126-127
Pagenaud 128
Dixon 129-148
Pagenaud 149-150
Kimball 151-152
Tagliani 153-154
Kimball 155-162
Dixon 163-164
Montoya 165-166
Dixon 167-169
Munoz 170-172
Wilson 173-174
Power 175-186
Dixon 187
Power 188-191
Montoya 192
Power 193-196
Montoya 197-200
Verizon IndyCar Series Point Standings: 1. Montoya 272, Power 247, Dixon 211, Castroneves 206, Rahal 204, Newgarden 173, Bourdais 161, Kimball 160, Andretti 151, Kanaan 147.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 24 2015
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