Juan Pablo Montoya earns first open-wheel podium showing since 2006, finishes third in Firestone 600 at Texas

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Juan Pablo Montoya earned his first podium appearance since returning to the IndyCar Series this season, finishing third in Saturday’s Firestone 600 IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Montoya’s best season finish to date — and his first open-wheel podium finish since being runner-up in the 2006 Formula One Monaco Grand Prix — adds to his fourth-place showing earlier in the year at Long Beach and his fifth-place result in the Indianapolis 500.

Montoya’s driving prompted former IndyCar driver turned NBC analyst Paul Tracy even went so far as to claim the old JPM is back.

While Montoya won’t go that far, he definitely is continuing to shake off some of the rust after seven seasons in NASCAR.

“We’re getting better, we’re getting there,” Montoya said. “I was kind of pissed off at that restart because you expect them to go in a zone, and that’s why they have the zone, and then when they don’t respect it, it’s kinda unfair.”

Montoya was talking about IndyCar’s decision to do away with double file restarts for the remainder of the season, beginning in Saturday night’s race.

“What’s the rule? If you’re going to let them restart anywhere, then don’t put the cones (indicating an acceleration zone leading to the start/finish line to assure cars are all single-file when the green flag drops and no car is able to get an unfair jump on the restart),” Montoya said. “It’s like NASCAR, if you have two lines, then you have to respect them. Hopefully, they (IndyCar officials) really look at it because it was a bit of a joke.”

What wasn’t a joke was Montoya’s finish. He didn’t have enough to catch winner Ed Carpenter, but he gave Team Penske teammate Will Power a run for his money until Power shot by on the final lap to take second away from Montoya.

“They said pit and then they said do whatever the leader does,” Montoya said. “So I did what the leader did (and stayed on the track instead of pitting for tires like Power did). It’s one of those cautions.

“Overall, I think our car was amazing today. Everybody at Team Penske did an amazing job. We had a flat tire right at the beginning, and to drive through the field, that was fun.”

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Malcolm Stewart sidelined by knee surgery for ‘extended duration’

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The knee injury that kept Malcolm Stewart from mounting up for Anaheim 2 will require surgery and he will be sidelined for “an extended duration” of the Monster Energy Supercross season, according to the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team.

“I just wanted to give you guys an update,” Stewart said on Instagram. “It’s not the news you guys want to hear, but I took a spill last week and hurt my knee pretty bad to the point that we’re going to have to get surgery done.

“I’m definitely bummed out about it; I felt we were riding pretty good and were just now starting to get the ball rolling, but it is what it is.”

Stewart’s season started with high expectations until accidents in the first two rounds left him 15th in the standings.

He ended 2022 on a high note, finishing a career high third in the Supercross standings. He then missed the start of the Pro Motocross season with another knee injury.

The 2023 season appeared to live up to his expectations. Despite back-to-back accidents, Stewart contended for podiums at both Anaheim 1 and San Diego. He won his heat at San Diego.

“It was very tough to receive the news that Malcolm will need to undergo knee surgery,” Nathan Ramsey, Team Manager for the Husqvarna team said in a press release. “He has worked so hard to be in a position to win races this year and I truly believe he was ready.

“The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing program will support him in every way that we can through his recovery and we can’t wait to get him back on track and back at the races.”

Stewart joins 250 rider Jalek Swoll on the sidelines after he broke an arm in a practice session. Swoll will be relieved by Talon Hawkins beginning this week at Houston, Texas.

A replacement rider has not been announced for Stewart, which means the focus shifts to his 450 teammate Christian Craig, who currently sits 12th in the standings with three top-15s in the opening rounds.