Montoya feels his stock car experience will help in IndyCar return

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IndyCars and stock cars may be drastically different racing machines, but Juan Pablo Montoya believes that his time in NASCAR has provided him with lessons that will be valuable to him as he prepares to return to the open-wheel landscape next season for Team Penske.

I think you learn so many things about the cars that you will never understand, or believe or see,” Montoya noted Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “There are a lot more basic things that you ignore in open wheel…There are a lot of things to learn.

“And as I said at the beginning of this week, it is going to be an uphill battle in a lot of ways, but I am looking forward to the challenge.”

The outspoken Colombian has only won twice in his seven years of Sprint Cup competition, and has only been able to make the Chase once. It has been a marked contrast from his past glory days in open-wheel, which were filled with accomplishments such as the 1999 CART championship, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 victory, and seven Grand Prix wins in Formula One from 2001-2006.

However, Montoya is not one to think that his stock car career hasn’t been fruitful.

“There is a lot of pluses of being here these years,” he said. “I don’t think that they are wasted years. I think that I learned a lot. I’m just looking forward to being in a winning car.”

Montoya will be part of a formidable three-car stable at Team Penske next year in IndyCar alongside Helio Castroneves (the current IZOD IndyCar Series championship leader) and Will Power. And you would assume that he’ll indeed have a car that’s capable of making him a winner again.

But even with all of his talent, he admits that it will take a bit to get used to things – especially the equipment, which has changed considerably since his first go-round in IndyCar.

“One of the good things about it is that when I drove [IndyCars], they were sequential – manually sequential gearbox. Now they are paddle shift like the F1 [car] was,” Montoya said.

“It is actually…I would say…easier than it used to be…I hadn’t even thought about the push-to-pass yet. There are a lot of things I am going to learn and a lot of mistakes I am going to do with the push-to-pass; not using it or over using it and stuff.

“We’ll learn, and I think the more I look at videos and prepare myself for the race, the better I am going to be.”

IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama final practice report

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Will Power posted the fastest lap in the third practice session for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.953 mph.

Rookie Robert Wickens (122.552 mph) was second fast, foretelling a continuation of his incredible rookie season.

Scott Dixon (122.237), Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.231) and Alexander Rossi (122.106) rounded out the top five.

The practice was interrupted several times for incidents. 

Ed Jones spun off track in turn five after locking up his brakes with 30 minutes remaining in practice three. He was able to drive back to the pits under his own power.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Jordan King took a trip into the fence after posting a fastest lap of 121.753 mph. He sustained substantial left side damage to his car and came back to the pits on the hook.

“I’m annoyed really,” King said afterward on the live stream at IndyCar.com. “I slightly locked the inside front, then just stayed off onto the grass and that was it. But I wasn’t really even pushing that hard.”

With two minutes remaining, Charlie Kimball lost power and pulled off the track, bringing an end to the practice session.

Dixon also had an off-road excursion.