IndyCar: Hard work pays off with Pocono win, but Montoya wants more (VIDEO)

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Outside of having four tires, there’s not much similarity between a stock car and an IndyCar. Among the many differences between them is how to drive them.

After seven years of driving NASCAR Sprint Cup cars, Juan Pablo Montoya needed to physically and mentally change in order to make the switch back to IndyCar racing, where he won the 2000 Indianapolis 500 and that year’s CART title before going to Formula One for what would be a six-year run over there.

From sweating in the gym to re-learning his open-wheel rhythm in the cockpit, Montoya has been working very hard to become a successful IndyCar driver again.

On Sunday at Pocono Raceway, it all paid off for him with his first Indy-car win in almost 14 years – 13 years, nine months, 20 days to be precise, which makes him just the third Indy-car driver since 1909 to go more than a decade between wins (Babe Stapp, John Paul Jr.).

Not that such history really matters to him.

“If you look at everything I did [and] I’ve accomplished so far in racing…20 years from now, they’re going to go, ‘Oh my God, this guy did this,'” he said in post-race. “Right now, I don’t really care.

“Now, I’m thinking about what are we going to do for Iowa. Tomorrow, we’ll have fun with the team and plan how we’re going to run [next] weekend, and what we did right this weekend [and] what we did wrong.”

But while Montoya wouldn’t acknowledge the historical stuff from his win on Sunday- which also includes the fact that he won the fastest 500-mile race in Indy-car history – he did acknowledge that it’s been tough getting re-acclimated to open-wheel.

“It’s been a long road,” he said. “It’s a lot harder than people realize because as I said the other day, driving open-wheel [cars] is so different than what I’ve been driving the last few years, and it was going to take time.”

Perhaps that why prior to today, Montoya had only been allowing himself to say things like “getting there” instead of something a bit more affirmative when it came to his process.

“I don’t like jinxing it and saying, ‘Oh, it’s coming, it’s coming,'” he said. “I’d rather be, ‘Let’s just keep working on it.'”

But Pocono definitely marks a milestone in the process, which, if it hasn’t reached its conclusion now is very close to doing so.

As mentioned earlier, Montoya has turned up the wick in the last four races with a third at Texas, a second and a seventh in the Houston doubleheader, and now, the W.

Thanks to that run, Montoya has become a legitimate title contender at just 55 points behind Team Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves, who are now tied in first place.

Remarkably, a second series championship is a possibility for Montoya with seven races left in the 2014 campaign. And now that the big prize is in sight, he’s going to work even harder.

“I’m still a ways away, but hey, I think people know that I’m coming, and it’s good,” he said. “It’s definitely a plus.

“I think it’s something that is helping and I’ve got to keep that in mind – I got to [this point] because I’ve been really smart about it, and it’s got to be that way.”

IMSA: Sebring Day 2 of two-day test notebook

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Testing across several IMSA sanctioned series continued at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday as preparations continue for next month’s events during the weekend of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

Below are highlights from Day 2 of testing around the 3.74-mile road course.

Eurosport Racing Continues Work with Mazda Prototype Challenge Chassis

Teams in the Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda championship completed their second day of testing on Tuesday. Among them, Eurosport Racing continued their work with the only Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) entries in the field, in the hands of drivers Dr. Tim George (in the No. 24 entry) and Jon Brownson (in the No. 34).

“Right now, I’m driving by myself so we’re trying to make the car comfortable enough to last an hour and 45 minutes with just me in the car,” George said of their preparation efforts. “We’re trying to set up the car where it’s quick, yet it and can last, both the car and for me to make sure we don’t tire out, get fatigued and make mistakes.”

The 1 hour 45 minute window that George referenced represents the race times for the 2018 season, up considerably from last year’s sprint format that featured a pair of 45-minute races across a race weekend.

Though that change represents a drastic shift in driving philosophy, it is one that George welcomes.

“The new rules for the endurance races are great, I enjoy it a lot,” said George. “It gives you a chance to think through things differently with strategy. It also gives you a chance if you blow it…in a sprint race if you make a mistake you don’t get a chance to come back.”

Florida Drivers in Continental Tire Challenge Eager for Hometown Race at Sebring

A strong contingent of drivers from Florida are represented in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and next month’s 12 Hours of Sebring weekend will see them compete on home soil.

“I grew up in Tallahassee and I live in Orlando now, so Sebring has been my home track since day one,” said Paul Holton, driver of the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren GT4, which finished 14th at the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. “I’ve spent a lot of time down here and really enjoy the place. It’s a nice, quaint little town not far from Orlando so it’s a quick, easy drive down for me.”

Fellow Floridian Ramin Abdolvahabi, a native of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and driver of the No. 09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage, revealed that, even though Sebring is only two hours from his hometown, this week’s test was his first time at the track in two years.

“I haven’t been here for two years, so coming back is like coming home,” he said. “It’s a fantastic track and it’s one of the iconic tracks in the world so being at Sebring – a small town, my hometown, welcoming – it’s fantastic. I went on the track a couple of times yesterday and it’s just like wearing an old shoe, it just fits and it’s fantastic. Hopefully, the race will go well and the weather will hold, so anyone who’s out there, come and see us!”

Frank Raso Trades in Airplanes for Porsches at Sebring

Several IMSA drivers boast “day jobs” outside of their racing gigs. Among them, Frank Raso’s work falls outside of ordinary jobs like doctor or lawyer. Rather, Raso flies airplanes for a living.

“I’m an airline pilot for a major airline,” said Raso, who tested the No. 10 Topp Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car at Sebring. “I’ve been flying for almost 30 years, and it’s allowed me, with all my time off and things like that to do this and fall back into racing again. I messed with it a little bit when I was younger, but it was, of course, expensive, so I got away from it for a while. I decided I wanted to get back into it in kind of my last couple of years before I get too old.”

Raso explained that the skills he practices while flying planes are more than transferable to his driving duties in a Porsche GT3 Cup car.

“Flying an airliner or flying any airplane, we have checklists, but everything is kind of done in order. It’s almost in a robot fashion type of a thing where you do this, you do this, you do this and you have to make sure you hit all your marks and fly the airplane with precision.

“So, when you get in these Cup cars, with no anti-lock brakes, no traction control, and no driver assist items, you have to make sure you hit your marks, when you’re accelerating, when you’re turning in. You have to be alert. It keeps your wits about you. The car can step out at any time. They’re a very difficult car to drive, but they’re a lot of fun.”
The 54-year-old Raso posted a best finish of fourth, on four separate occasions, in a part-time schedule during the 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season as a competitor in the Gold Cup class.
Newcomers Get Taste of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge
A number of new drivers got to sample Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge cars during the two days of testing at Sebring. Among them was amateur racer Scott Welham, who got his first taste of professional racing during the two-day outing at Sebring.
And he had a strong support system backing him up in the Kelly-Moss Road and Race team, the defending Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champions with driver Jake Eidson.
“Here, you’ve got somebody that actually does coaching, data acquisition, track management – these are all separate people – plant manager, owner, a car-setup guy, you’ve got someone that bills you – which isn’t always a good thing, but you know, you just have that huge, huge support group that enables you to focus on driving,” Welham said of the team’s influence on his development over the two days.
IMSA’s next visit to Sebring will be for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17.