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.”

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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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.

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