Juan Pablo Montoya earns first open-wheel podium showing since 2006, finishes third in Firestone 600 at Texas

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Juan Pablo Montoya earned his first podium appearance since returning to the IndyCar Series this season, finishing third in Saturday’s Firestone 600 IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Montoya’s best season finish to date — and his first open-wheel podium finish since being runner-up in the 2006 Formula One Monaco Grand Prix — adds to his fourth-place showing earlier in the year at Long Beach and his fifth-place result in the Indianapolis 500.

Montoya’s driving prompted former IndyCar driver turned NBC analyst Paul Tracy even went so far as to claim the old JPM is back.

While Montoya won’t go that far, he definitely is continuing to shake off some of the rust after seven seasons in NASCAR.

“We’re getting better, we’re getting there,” Montoya said. “I was kind of pissed off at that restart because you expect them to go in a zone, and that’s why they have the zone, and then when they don’t respect it, it’s kinda unfair.”

Montoya was talking about IndyCar’s decision to do away with double file restarts for the remainder of the season, beginning in Saturday night’s race.

“What’s the rule? If you’re going to let them restart anywhere, then don’t put the cones (indicating an acceleration zone leading to the start/finish line to assure cars are all single-file when the green flag drops and no car is able to get an unfair jump on the restart),” Montoya said. “It’s like NASCAR, if you have two lines, then you have to respect them. Hopefully, they (IndyCar officials) really look at it because it was a bit of a joke.”

What wasn’t a joke was Montoya’s finish. He didn’t have enough to catch winner Ed Carpenter, but he gave Team Penske teammate Will Power a run for his money until Power shot by on the final lap to take second away from Montoya.

“They said pit and then they said do whatever the leader does,” Montoya said. “So I did what the leader did (and stayed on the track instead of pitting for tires like Power did). It’s one of those cautions.

“Overall, I think our car was amazing today. Everybody at Team Penske did an amazing job. We had a flat tire right at the beginning, and to drive through the field, that was fun.”

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Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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