Viva Colombia: Huertas, Montoya, Munoz contribute to nation’s great sports day (VIDEO)

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Verizon IndyCar Series rookie and Bogota, Colombia native Carlos Munoz is proud of where he’s from. That said, he doesn’t mind being away from home for the time being.

“I think right now we’re really lucky to be here in America, not in Colombia,” he said after finishing third behind fellow Colombians Carlos Huertas and Juan Pablo Montoya in today’s Race 1 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston. “I think right now Colombia, [it would] be really crazy to go out in the streets and celebrate.”

The Andretti Autosport youngster probably has a point. In addition to the occurrence of the first all-Colombian podium in Indy-car history, the Colombian national soccer team advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals today with a 2-0 win over Uruguay.

Party time in Bogota.

“Obviously the football – as you guys say it, soccer – is huge in Colombia, and I was there last week for every game,” said Huertas, who earned his inaugural Verizon IndyCar Series win today. “And every time the game starts, like the whole country stops. People don’t even work.

“My win is just a little bit [of the celebration]. I hope they’re happy, and the people that watched it back home, my girlfriend, my friends, my family, my mom was sitting there watching it, I hope they’re very happy, because it means a lot to me.”

The all-Colombian podium can also be interpreted as a sign of just how much influence Montoya has had over the years.

In post-race, Montoya recalled looking up to Colombian F1 and IndyCar racer Roberto Guerrero when he was young. And in turn, Huertas and Munoz looked up to Montoya as he left his own mark around the world in CART, F1, and NASCAR.

“When I went up, karting and racing in Colombia was there and a couple people tried it,” said Montoya. “But nobody ever thought you could make a career out of this.”

Munoz was lucky enough to have some contact with Montoya when he was in karting.

“He’s always been an example for me and also for a lot of drivers growing up…It was nice to have when I was small as an example, and right now competing against him at the track, he’s very good,” he said.

Huertas also noted his appreciation for what Montoya’s done. But he stressed that on the track, it’s all business – and no deference to childhood heroes.

“I have huge respect for him, and to beat him shows that I’ve done a good job,” he said. “But my objective is to beat all the drivers, and I treat them all the same. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be the same feeling.”

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”