IndyCar: Montoya upbeat after solid Friday at Barber

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Juan Pablo Montoya had his best Friday yet upon his return to the Verizon IndyCar Series, ending eighth on the combined timesheets from the two 45-minute practice sessions at Barber Motorsports Park.

Montoya, who’s traded his usual red and white Verizon livery for a blue and white PPG one adorning his No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet, comes into the weekend with extended track testing under his belt over the winter.

The Colombian was just 0.1649 off teammate Will Power and 0.1301 off fellow teammate Helio Castroneves. Thing was Power was fourth and Castroneves sixth; such is the tight nature of the entire field. He was 0.3559 off overall leader Ryan Hunter-Reay.

“The PPG Chevy was really good in the first session. I was able to push it a little harder than I did at Long Beach and it looked like it we were making big gains,” Montoya said.

But like seven other drivers, Montoya failed to improve in the hotter afternoon session. He was fifth in the morning but just 17th later on Friday.

“For some reason the speed fell off in the afternoon. Not sure why that was but we’ll figure it out before qualifying tomorrow. Qualifying continues to be very important for us and tomorrow will be no different.”

Montoya has starts of 18th and 16th in two races this year. He seeks his first top-12 effort tomorrow and potentially his first Firestone Fast Six appearance if he continues to advance.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”