Transition back to IndyCar “still hard” for Juan Pablo Montoya

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Juan Pablo Montoya is now two races into his return to open-wheel racing. But to hear him tell it, the transition back remains anything but easy.

Montoya took this week’s IndyCar test at Texas Motor Speedway as a chance to get more acclimated with the Dallara DW12 on an oval. He made 14 starts at TMS in a NASCAR Sprint Cup stock car, but had never experienced the track in an open-wheel car.

Therein lies one of the toughest obstacles in his adjustment to the faster speeds of the IndyCars after seven years in stock cars.

“It was hard at the beginning. It’s still hard,” the Colombian said at TMS. “There are weeks, like here for example, places that I have been in the Cup car before makes it harder. Sebring was actually pretty simple because I kind of had the memory of the IndyCar and that was a long time ago, but that’s what I’ve done there always. You kind of have a reference.

“Where like here for example, you are used to lifting and braking and all that stuff and you can run fairly wide open. It’s hard. It makes it fun but it’s so much quicker.”

Montoya also noted that he was leaning on some of his past experience in Formula One to get him through the adjustment, but said that the physicality of driving an IndyCar was another challenge entirely.

“Being in F1 really helped me get back to [driving] an IndyCar because it relates more to an F1 than an IndyCar when I drove [in CART],” he said. “We’ve got carbon brakes, paddle shifting, tunnel downforce.

“Still, something really hard is how physical they are. To run a race in an IndyCar is like doing a 1,200-mile Cup race or something. It’s like, three times harder.”

Carb Day: Tony Kanaan is fastest in final practice for Sunday’s Indy 500

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Tony Kanaan wants to put legendary driver and team owner A.J. Foyt back into Victory Lane at the Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan took a big step toward achieving that goal in Friday’s final practice for Sunday’s 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

Kanaan was fastest of the 33-driver field, with a best lap around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval at 227.791 mph, more than 2 mph faster than the second-fastest driver, Kanaan’s former teammate, Scott Dixon (225.684 mph).

Foyt won a record-tying four Indy 500’s as a driver. It’s been nearly 20 years since he also won as a team owner in 1999 with Kenny Brack behind the wheel.

Marco Andretti was third-fastest (225.200 mph), followed by Sebastien Bourdais (224.815), Charlie Kimball (224.712), 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato (224.083), Will Power (223.942), Danica Patrick (223.653), Spencer Pigot (223.584) and Ed Jones (223.556).

Other notable driver speeds included:

* Pole sitter Ed Carpenter was 14th fastest (223.219 mph).

* Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden was 15th (223.186 mph).

* Helio Castroneves, hoping to earn a record-tying fourth 500 win, was 17th (222.913 mph).

* Graham Rahal was 21st (222.526).

* Former 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay was 26th (221.916 mph), followed by rookie Robert Wickens (221.821 mph), carrying the mantle for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with James Hinchcliffe having failed to qualify for the race.

* The biggest surprise was 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, who was 32nd fastest (221.374 mph).

We’ll have the full speed grid, as well as full driver quotes, shortly. Please check back soon.

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