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Penske Gives Montoya 500 Ride

| , RacinToday.com Thursday, November 3 2016
Montoya will get a shot at winning another Indy 500 next season. (File photo courtesy of the Verizon IndyCar Series)

Montoya will get a shot at winning another Indy 500 next season. (File photo courtesy of the Verizon IndyCar Series)

RacinToday.com

Juan Pablo Montoya’s tenure as a Verizon IndyCar Series free agent is over, as the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion has opted to return to Team Penske for the 101st edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” next May.

Tim Cindric, Team Penske president, confirmed Montoya’s decision to officials of sanctioning body INDYCAR. The 2017 Indy 500 currently is the only series race on Montoya’s schedule.

Montoya has won 15 Indy car races in 91 career starts over five seasons. The 41-year-old Colombian drove for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Championship Auto Racing Teams in 1999-2000 and for team-owner Roger Penske from 2014-16, with stints in Formula One and NASCAR in between. JPM won the CART championship in 1999 and the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 as a rookie and repeated in 2015 for “The Captain.”

Driving the No. 2 Chevrolet for Team Penske in 2016, Montoya finished eighth in the standings with a win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Team Penske signed Josef Newgarden to drive the No. 2 car in 2017, leaving Montoya without a fulltime seat with the team. When Team Penske announced the addition of Newgarden last month, Cindric said Montoya was offered the opportunity to drive a Penske car in next year’s Indianapolis 500.

Montoya explored options with other Verizon IndyCar Series teams but decided a return to Penske gave him the best chance to win a third Indy 500, according to Cindric, who confirmed the agreement via the INDYCAR Mobile app. Cindric said details of Montoya’s involvement for the 101st edition of the race will be announced at a future date.

“He didn’t want to leave the team but wanted to see what else was out there,” Cindric told the INDYCAR Mobile app. “After giving it some thought, he told me the best opportunity was to run Indy with Team Penske, so if the offer still stood, that is what he wanted to do.”

Montoya will complete a Penske armada at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that includes the top four finishers in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series standings _ champion Simon Pagenaud, second-place Will Power, third-place Helio Castroneves (a three-time Indy 500 winner) and Newgarden. It will mark the first time for Team Penske to field five cars for the Indy 500.

“The fact we are going to stay together and try to win Indy together speaks about our relationship between the team and Juan,” Cindric said.

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Mazda Motorsports and Andersen Promotions have announced an agreement for INDYCAR to sanction the Mazda MX-5 Cup series beginning with the 2017 season. The Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires is the signature spec series for the Mazda Road to 24, the sports car counterpart to the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel ladder leading to the Verizon IndyCar Series.

In both development programs, series champions earn a Mazda Motorsports scholarship to advance their racing careers. The MX-5 Cup season champion earns a $200,000 scholarship. New for 2017, the MX-5 Cup rookie of the year will earn a $50,000 scholarship. In total, MX-5 Cup pays more than $500,000 in prize money and scholarships.

“This sanctioning agreement with INDYCAR for the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires is based upon our long and productive relationship with Dan Andersen, Andersen Promotions and INDYCAR,” said John Doonan, director of motorsports at Mazda North American Operations. “We have worked closely with them to grow the Mazda Road to Indy into the finest open-wheel ladder in the world. Now, we are striving to grow this series, which is the first step of our sports car ladder known as the Mazda Road to 24.

“In only one year, we have sold more than 120 of the newest generation of MX-5 Cup cars and have seen starting fields of up to 40 cars. By teaming with INDYCAR, we believe the series will thrive.”

In 2017, the MX-5 Cup will consist of a 12-race schedule on a total of six event weekends, plus the second annual Global MX-5 Cup Invitational, a non-points-paying event for Mazda racers from around the world. Four of those event weekends will be held during Verizon IndyCar Series events _ Barber Motorsports Park (April 20-23), Road America (June 23-25), Toronto (July 14-16) and Watkins Glen International (Sept. 1-3). The series also will compete on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the SVRA event (June 15-17) and twice at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California(Sept. 22-24 and the Global Invitational, Oct. 13-15).

MX-5 Cup series cars are sold as a ready-to-race, turnkey package for $58,900. The series is entering its 12th season.

“When Mazda approached us regarding MX-5 Cup, we felt it would be a great opportunity for INDYCAR to expand upon what we’re already doing with our involvement in the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations. “This agreement also allows us to enhance our overall platform with Mazda Motorsports and Andersen Promotions, who have been great partners of INDYCAR.”

The Mazda Road to Indy consists of three levels of open-wheel racing _ Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda _ providing a progressive training ground for drivers and teams aspiring to reach the Verizon IndyCar Series.

| , RacinToday.com Thursday, November 3 2016
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