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.”

WATCH: Red Bull GRC opener at Memphis, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET on NBC

Photo: Louis Yio/Red Bull Content Pool
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Red Bull Global Rallycross kicks its 2017 season off with its first tip to Memphis, on a 1.18-mile “roval” course this weekend.

Coverage airs Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on NBC for the high-intensity rallycross championship. Toby Moody, Anders Krohn and Will Christien have the call.

Scott Speed looks to open his 2017 season strong in pursuit of his third straight championship with Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, but teammate Tanner Foust and strong factory efforts from Honda and Subaru are poised to upset him and the VW Andretti team.

Besides the Supercars, GRC Lites also open their 2017 season at Memphis. That coverage airs on Tuesday, May 2, at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

IndyCar Paddock Pass: Phoenix (VIDEO)

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass is back for NBCSN’s third Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season, the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (tonight, 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN) from Phoenix International Raceway.

NBCSN IndyCar and Indy Lights reporter and IndyCar’s “Up to Speed” host Katie Hargitt fills in for Anders Krohn this weekend. She checks in with the following drivers in this weekend’s episode:

  • With Josef Newgarden, driver of the No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, who won at Barber.
  • With JR Hildebrand, driver of the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, back this week after missing Barber.
  • And with Zach Veach, who deputized for Hildebrand at Barber and is here this weekend in his IndyCar Radio role as a pit reporter, and preparing for the Indianapolis 500 with AJ Foyt Racing.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


Hamilton confused by lack of pace in Russia F1 qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton was left confused and disappointed after finishing half a second behind pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel in Formula 1 qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Hamilton arrived in Russia looking to cut the gap to Ferrari driver Vettel in the championship standings after falling seven points behind last time out in Bahrain.

Vettel rallied to take his first pole since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday in Sochi, while Hamilton finished half a second back in fourth place, lagging behind Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton has long stated his desire to have Ferrari fighting with Mercedes at the front of the pace, but he was disappointed not to be able to fight Vettel for pole in Russia.

“This means we have a real race. It’s just a shame today, I definitely wasn’t at my optimum,” Hamilton told NBCSN after the session.

“Normally I’m a lot quicker than I was today. I need to go and work out why and if I can do anything.

“Obviously I can’t change the car, so I’ll see what I can do tomorrow.”

Speaking in Mercedes’ post-qualifying release, Hamilton said that he is hopeful of making use of the long straights at the Sochi Autodrom to catch and pass the Ferrari driver, with Mercedes bidding to maintain a 100 per cent record at the track.

“Sochi isn’t the easiest track to follow on, but there are long straights which should offer the opportunity to move forward. That’s our goal,” Hamilton said.

“I’m on the dirty side of the grid so I haven’t done myself any favours off the start. But that was the best job I could do today. We’ve got a real race to look forward to.

“There’s no point being upset. We’ll channel our positive energy and hopefully Sunday will be better.”

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

Q3 traffic costs Raikkonen shot at first F1 pole in nine years

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Kimi Raikkonen was left lamenting traffic at the start of his final qualifying run in Sochi after narrowly missing out on his first Formula 1 pole in almost nine years.

Raikkonen last started a grand prix from pole in France back in 2008, but sat on provisional pole after the first Q3 runs had been completed in Russia on Saturday.

The final laps saw Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel improve to wrestle pole away, with a mistake sending Raikkonen wide at the final corner, meaning he was unable to improve.

Raikkonen was left to settle for second place, 0.059 seconds off Vettel’s time, with the Finn saying his inability to get his tires up to temperature early was the main issue.

“Obviously the aim is to be in the front. The feeling has been more better this weekend,” Raikkonen explained.

“Now we just got some traffic on our out lap in the last set and couldn’t really make the tires work as well as the first run. It was a bit more trickier. They were thereabouts and I just about got it back in the last corner, but obviously didn’t pay off.

“I’m happier than previous qualifyings, but obviously we had all the tools to be in the front today. One-two for the team is not bad.”

While Raikkonen was unable to take pole, Ferrari did capture its first front-row lock-out since the race at Magny-Cours in 2008. Raikkonen took pole that day ahead of teammate Felipe Massa, with the latter going on to win the race.

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.