IndyCar: Montoya upbeat after solid Friday at Barber

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Juan Pablo Montoya had his best Friday yet upon his return to the Verizon IndyCar Series, ending eighth on the combined timesheets from the two 45-minute practice sessions at Barber Motorsports Park.

Montoya, who’s traded his usual red and white Verizon livery for a blue and white PPG one adorning his No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet, comes into the weekend with extended track testing under his belt over the winter.

The Colombian was just 0.1649 off teammate Will Power and 0.1301 off fellow teammate Helio Castroneves. Thing was Power was fourth and Castroneves sixth; such is the tight nature of the entire field. He was 0.3559 off overall leader Ryan Hunter-Reay.

“The PPG Chevy was really good in the first session. I was able to push it a little harder than I did at Long Beach and it looked like it we were making big gains,” Montoya said.

But like seven other drivers, Montoya failed to improve in the hotter afternoon session. He was fifth in the morning but just 17th later on Friday.

“For some reason the speed fell off in the afternoon. Not sure why that was but we’ll figure it out before qualifying tomorrow. Qualifying continues to be very important for us and tomorrow will be no different.”

Montoya has starts of 18th and 16th in two races this year. He seeks his first top-12 effort tomorrow and potentially his first Firestone Fast Six appearance if he continues to advance.

Alex Zanardi showing signs of interaction three months after crash

Alex Zanardi recovery
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
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MILAN — Italian racing driver turned Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi has started responding to treatment with signs of interaction, more than three months after he was seriously injured in a handbike crash.

Zanardi has spent most of that time in intensive care after crashing into an oncoming truck during a relay event near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19.

“For several days now. Alex Zanardi has undergone cognitive and motor rehabilitation sessions, with the administration of visual and acoustic stimuli, to which the patient responds with momentary and initial signs of interaction,” the San Raffaele hospital in Milan said in a statement Thursday.

The hospital said that is “significant progress” but added that his condition remains serious, and that it would be “absolutely premature” to make a long-term prognosis.

Zanardi, 53, suffered serious facial and cranial trauma in the crash and was put in a medically induced coma. Doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

He was operated on several times to stabilize him and reconstruct his severely damaged face and the Milan hospital added that he recently had undergone another surgery to reconstruct his skull and would have another one in the coming weeks.

Zanardi lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago. He won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.