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

4 Comments

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.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

Follow @KyleMLavigne