Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Juan Pablo Montoya is no stranger to Phoenix International Raceway. But for his second round of IndyCar testing with Team Penske on Tuesday, he might as well have been.
Because while it’s one thing to navigate “The Desert Jewel” with a heavy stock car, it’s quite another to do the same in an open-wheeler.
“We did some laps in the road car and said ‘In NASCAR, we brake here and here,'” Montoya said on Tuesday. “And [teammate Helio Castroneves] was like, ‘No, this is going to be wide open.’ I’m like, ‘What?'”
The point was driven home further to Montoya when he observed Castroneves zipping around the track.
“In the straight, it just goes fast, but you don’t really realize how fast he’s going until he turns and the thing just snaps into the corner,” he said. “And then you go into [Turns] Three and Four and you know – ‘Wow, your foot never moved.’
“For me, the big difference is the entry to the corner. Once you get to the middle of the corner, whatever speed you have, you are committed to. You can see the exit, too, and you’re like, ‘Ahhh…'”
Montoya later commented on the speed disparity between the IndyCars and the Cup cars around PIR on Twitter:
He was also complimentary of PIR, saying that “most of the ovals, and actually all of the tracks” should have such a driving experience like that of the one-mile oval.
On that note, PIR president Bryan Sperber continued to maintain his stance on a possible return by IndyCar to his facility, saying that “the ball is in their court.”
“Phoenix International Raceway began as an open-wheel track and we would love nothing more than to have open-wheel racing back at PIR in the future,” he said.
“I’ve been very honest with the management at IndyCar about what it would take to be able to run here…Hopefully, the interest in running at Phoenix International Raceway becomes sufficient enough that they would like to pursue that opportunity, but we don’t anticipate any immediate changes to our 2014 racing schedule.”
Photo Credit: John Hendrick/INDYCAR