Montoya: A faster re-acclimation to Indy 500 than expected

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It’s interesting that Juan Pablo Montoya’s return to the Indianapolis 500 hasn’t, yet, been a major story of the first week of practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ marquee race.

His teammates under the Team Penske umbrella have been. Will Power’s been quick, and also offered his thoughts on double points for the 500-mile races and additional points for qualifying. Helio Castroneves is rocking a throwback Pennzoil paint scheme and has also topped the time sheets; at the moment, his 227-plus mph lap from Thursday is the fastest of the week.

Yet Montoya, who is back at IMS going the normal oval direction for the Indianapolis 500 after spending time racing at IMS in either the Brickyard 400, U.S. Grand Prix or GRAND-AM Rolex Series race the last 14 years, was pleased and surprised with how quickly he got back up to speed here on the oval, in an IndyCar.

“I’ll tell you the truth, I was really surprised when I came on Sunday,” Montoya said during a Friday morning press conference. “I went out and I said, ‘I’m going to take my time. Full throttle, lifted on three and four, second lap, third lap, fourth lap, I’m good.’ It was nice.”

Through Thursday’s running, Montoya completed 279 laps and had the 11th best speed of 225.134 mph in the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet for Penske Motorsports.

He’s already thrilled with how fast the entire Penske organization has got their heads wrapped around the setup on the cars.

“One of the cool things about being with Team Penske, they do such a good job with the cars,” he said. “The experience here is so good. They really know what they’re doing. It makes it so easy for us, it really does.

“I mean, when you’re trying, like yesterday we were starting to trim the car out in case it rained today, okay, I have a little bit of understeer, they change it.  They really know how much to change the car, to adjust the car.  It makes it fun.”

Montoya has a legitimate shot at being in the fastest nine qualifiers on Saturday, to then have a run for the pole on Sunday. But clearly he’s back, as he helps the team in search of Roger Penske’s 16th Indianapolis 500 victory, and first since 2009 (Castroneves).

Leclerc: No. 16 was third-choice for Formula 1 career

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2018 Formula 1 rookie Charles Leclerc has revealed No. 16 was his third-choice number to use through his grand prix career, with his preferred options having already been taken.

From 2014, drivers were given the chance to pick a number to use through their F1 careers instead of being assigned one depending on their team’s championship position.

Formula 2 champion and Ferrari junior Leclerc was announced in an Alfa Romeo Sauber race seat for 2018 earlier this month, picking No. 16 as his permanent number.

However, the Monegasque racer revealed last week that it was in fact his third choice, with both No. 7 and No. 10 already being taken by Kimi Raikkonen and Pierre Gasly respectively.

“It’s quite simple to be honest: I wanted number 7 first, but Kimi had it,” Leclerc said, as quoted by Crash.net.

“Then I chose 10, but Pierre came to F1 and chose number 10, so then I chose number 16.

“It’s just my date of birth and I could not find anything better. And 1 + 6 = 7, which is my favorite number.”

Leclerc will become the first driver hailing from Monaco to race in F1 since Olivier Beretta, who made nine grand prix starts in 1994 for Larrousse.