Montoya feels his stock car experience will help in IndyCar return

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IndyCars and stock cars may be drastically different racing machines, but Juan Pablo Montoya believes that his time in NASCAR has provided him with lessons that will be valuable to him as he prepares to return to the open-wheel landscape next season for Team Penske.

I think you learn so many things about the cars that you will never understand, or believe or see,” Montoya noted Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “There are a lot more basic things that you ignore in open wheel…There are a lot of things to learn.

“And as I said at the beginning of this week, it is going to be an uphill battle in a lot of ways, but I am looking forward to the challenge.”

The outspoken Colombian has only won twice in his seven years of Sprint Cup competition, and has only been able to make the Chase once. It has been a marked contrast from his past glory days in open-wheel, which were filled with accomplishments such as the 1999 CART championship, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 victory, and seven Grand Prix wins in Formula One from 2001-2006.

However, Montoya is not one to think that his stock car career hasn’t been fruitful.

“There is a lot of pluses of being here these years,” he said. “I don’t think that they are wasted years. I think that I learned a lot. I’m just looking forward to being in a winning car.”

Montoya will be part of a formidable three-car stable at Team Penske next year in IndyCar alongside Helio Castroneves (the current IZOD IndyCar Series championship leader) and Will Power. And you would assume that he’ll indeed have a car that’s capable of making him a winner again.

But even with all of his talent, he admits that it will take a bit to get used to things – especially the equipment, which has changed considerably since his first go-round in IndyCar.

“One of the good things about it is that when I drove [IndyCars], they were sequential – manually sequential gearbox. Now they are paddle shift like the F1 [car] was,” Montoya said.

“It is actually…I would say…easier than it used to be…I hadn’t even thought about the push-to-pass yet. There are a lot of things I am going to learn and a lot of mistakes I am going to do with the push-to-pass; not using it or over using it and stuff.

“We’ll learn, and I think the more I look at videos and prepare myself for the race, the better I am going to be.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.