The chaos that populated the second half of Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach promoted all four Colombians into the top-10 of the second Verizon IndyCar Series race of the year.
As written yesterday by my MST colleague Chris Estrada, Carlos Munoz upheld Andretti Autosport’s honor with a podium, on a day when that team lost two cars in the same incident.
But all three of Munoz’s countrymen made it into the top-10 as well. Juan Pablo Montoya went on a roller coaster of a day after qualifying in the eighth row, advancing up as high as fourth, getting a penalty for pitting under a closed pit and dropping to 20th, then rebounding back to fourth by the flag.
“I could’ve been a little more aggressive at the end but I really wanted to make sure we didn’t get in any trouble and got a decent finish in the Verizon car,” said JPM. “We had some close calls out there but we kept pushing and to come out of Long Beach with a top-five finish is pretty good.”
KV/AFS driver Sebastian Saavedra (pictured) had a crazy day as well. Included in his day: a stall off the start from 22nd, an off sequence strategy, a moment where his left thumb got hit by debris, his first ever lap led in IndyCar, and a final mechanical problem that meant he had to nurse the car home. When all was said and done, the driver of the No. 17 Chevrolet ended ninth, and is now 10th in points after finishing 11th in St. Petersburg.
“It was quite an interesting race,” said Saavedra. “I made a big mistake at the start, stalling the car, but we kept calm and focused. We had a great car with great pace and that enabled me to move back through the field. I was also able to capitalize on the mistakes by others.
Carlos Huertas, the fourth Colombian in the field, continued to overachieve in the second Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Huertas started 21st but made it as high as fifth, before earning a penalty for passing before the start/finish line on a restart. He ultimately ended 10thh, for his first career top-10 result.
“Montoya lifted big and I did pass on the restart to avoid hitting him, then I let him back by before Turn 1 so I am surprised I was penalized,” he said. “The team helped me learn the track and it was a weekend that should have been even better.”
The Colombian quartet now heads to Barber – a track where Munoz (2013) and Saavedra (2012) have won the last two Indy Lights races, where Montoya has enjoyed several tests, and where Huertas, again, will turn his first laps on the track in first practice.