Montoya, Castroneves riff on Penske quartet’s nationalities post-race at Long Beach

0 Comments

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Juan Pablo Montoya isn’t a comedian by trade, but he played one pretty well during the post-race press conference at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Montoya kicked off a conversation about chemistry at Team Penske by noting the nationalities of all four drivers in the team, and it basically went forward from there.

Here’s the transcript of that portion:

For both of you guys, obviously you were very strong here the first three races, the whole team. We haven’t had any speedway races yet so we can’t make any judgments, but could both of you talk about the strength you have of the team and your hopes for the championship and the Indy 500? At this point you guys are the favorites, but could you talk about how the chemistry is working, what the strength is and what your hopes are for the 500 and the season?

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: We have no chemistry here. It’s terrible. (Laughter.) Listen, a French, a Colombian, a Brazilian, and where is the other one from, Australia?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think that’s why we have the chemistry because we don’t understand each other.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: One of the amazing things about having the four of us being so competitive is you do a great lap in practice, you finish practicing, you look at the data and they’re still kicking your butt somewhere. They are. There’s always corners where they’re better than you so you always find ways to better yourself, and I think that’s more than the cars running better or whatever it is, I think the group of the four drivers is making a big difference.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, it’s like I said yesterday, the level that we have in our team, it’s not only as competitors but as people, as well, it’s just awesome. It’s great to have that kind of data because when you go back, and he just said it, we go look and it’s like, man, how does he do this. You try and work together. With that, the biggest benefit is the team, and when you have the team winning, you have Roger happy, and that’s when we all feel like we want to win for the team.

I want to follow up a little bit more. You are four very different people, different race car drivers. How does that dynamic work in making it easier to get along with each other because you’re both South American but you’re not even close to being similar.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No, I mean, he dances. I can’t dance.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank God. I actually want to see you dance, man.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No. Put it this way, I haven’t seen myself dance.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: That’s right.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: To tell you the truth, we’re all mature enough, we’ve done this long enough that I think it makes it easier. Because when you’re young, you’re really gritty and you don’t want to help anybody. And something at Team Penske, the No. 1 thing is the team and the benefit of the team, and we understand that and we all help each other.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, it was for me or for him? I agree with Juan Pablo. We’ve been here for long enough in this business, and yes, we want to win, we’re still young inside that we want to win everywhere

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Inside and outside.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, but the point is we want to go for it, but at the end of the day, we understand that some days are not our days, and we have maturity enough to understand, and being on this team for such a long time, it’s about team, and you know that even sometimes you don’t win, you contribute with a good performance, and you feel proud of it.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

0 Comments

Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”