Long Beach flashback: Montoya’s first CART win in 1999 (VIDEO)

5 Comments

The 1999 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach marked the arrival – officially – of then-Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Juan Pablo Montoya to North American racing.

Yes, the Williams test driver/F3000 champion had impressed in his first two starts in Homestead and Motegi, but it was at Long Beach where he really shone through.

In 1999, the Long Beach race was the 25th anniversary of the event, and ran on a one-off course design. An interim design for 1999 featured the introduction of the new aquarium section, where cars turned left off Shoreline Dr. for the first time as opposed to right. Through the section, they’d then rejoin at the old Turn 3 before moving up onto the back straight. The track was revised to its current configuration a year later.

Montoya started fifth but quickly moved up to second, hounding a then first-time pole sitter, Tony Kanaan, in the No. 44 McDonald’s Championship Racing Reynard-Honda. You’ll see that brief bit of action below.

Kanaan ultimately crashed out of the race, which left Montoya to dominate the remainder of the race. With clean pit stops and hitting his marks every time, Montoya held off Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta to take his first victory in North America.

Interestingly, Franchitti and Herta had finished second and third the year previous to Montoya’s predecessor at CGR, Alex Zanardi.

Fifteen years later, Montoya is back but now driving for Team Penske, while Kanaan, perhaps fittingly, is in the No. 10 Target car. Montoya’s 2014 teammate Helio Castroneves was also in the 1999 race, but struggled to a 19th place finish driving for Hogan Racing in a Lola-Mercedes.

Other notes from those in the 1999 field ahead of this year’s race: Franchitti’s now in an advisory role at Ganassi, Herta, Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser own teams (as does Bobby Rahal, who fielded Herta and Max Papis that year), Christian Fittipaldi and Scott Pruett will race Daytona Prototypes in the supporting TUDOR United SportsCar Championship series, Robby Gordon’s SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks join the docket on Sunday, and last but certainly not least, “the Thrill from West Hill,” Paul Tracy, joins NBCSN’s broadcast team for the first Verizon IndyCar Series race of the year on the network.

You can see Sunday’s race at 4 p.m. ET live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

F1 2017 driver review: Kimi Raikkonen

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kimi Raikkonen

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 7
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 7
Best Finish: P2 (Monaco, Hungary)
Pole Positions: 1
Fastest Laps: 2
Points: 205
Laps Led: 40
Championship Position: 4th

While this may have statistically been Kimi Raikkonen’s best campaign since his first year back in F1 in 2012, there is a good case for it being one of his most disappointing to date.

Raikkonen’s continued role at Ferrari has been questioned on a number of occasions, but the Finn looked capable of answering his critics heading into 2017 after impressing through pre-season testing as he appeared to get to grips well with the new-style cars.

But we soon grew accustomed to the same old story: flashes of potential, but otherwise an underwhelming, unsatisfactory campaign that saw Raikkonen be dwarfed by his teammate, Sebastian Vettel.

Raikkonen’s charge to his first pole position for over eight years in Monaco gave hope of a popular win, only for Ferrari to play its strategy in favor of title contender Vettel – why wouldn’t the team do so? – to leave him a disgruntled second.

While Vettel was able to impress at the majority of circuits, Raikkonen only looked strong at tracks that were unquestionably ‘Ferrari’ tracks, such as Hungary and Brazil. Like Vettel, Raikkonen should have racked up a good haul of points in Singapore, only for the start-line crash to sideline both Ferraris before they even reached Turn 1.

Again there is the question of ‘what could have been?’ in Malaysia had it not been for the spark plug issue on the grid, yet in Japan, Raikkonen was nowhere, finishing behind the Mercedes and Red Bulls.

Finishing just five points clear of Daniel Ricciardo despite having a much faster car for the best part of the season and the Red Bull driver’s own reliability issues sums up the disappointment of Raikkonen’s campaign.

He should have been an ally for Vettel in the title race by nicking points of Lewis Hamilton, much as Valtteri Bottas was doing for his Mercedes teammate. Instead, Raikkonen seemed to be tagging along for the best part of this season.

Season High: Pole in Monaco, his first since the 2008 French Grand Prix.

Season Low: Finishing a distant P4 at Spa – a circuit he made his own in the 2000s.