Montoya extends IndyCar points lead after fourth place in Milwaukee (VIDEO)


MILWAUKEE – A year ago Juan Pablo Montoya was frustrated to finish second in Milwaukee. On Sunday, he made some lemonade out of lemons to end fourth.

The driver of the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet recovered from an early race drive-through, and then a late gamble to finish the race on old tires, to finish with another top-five finish and extend his Verizon IndyCar Series points lead.

“We pitted early and I was running third and I came for a stop and I downshifted and and I pressed the (pit-speed limiter) button,” Montoya said post-race. “I don’t know if I didn’t press the button hard enough or something and we got behind the 8-ball there.”

Montoya definitely enjoyed the race in the waning stages as he fought teammate Helio Castroneves, Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon.

“We do what we need to be doing. You gotta drive aggressive. Be smart when you need to be smart,” Montoya told MotorSportsTalk.

“I thought I could hold off Helio. Then Graham came and I thought, ‘I‘m not gonna waste my time on him.’ So I let him go. I thought it would be quick enough. The 9 car [Dixon] came and his tires were off, he couldn’t pass me.

“It was tough but it makes it fun. You gotta drive the (expletive) out of it, but that’s what they pay me to do.”

Montoya now holds a 54-point lead over Dixon with just four races to go. He had led Power by 46 coming into the race.

Unofficial points standings are as follows in the top 10:

1. 2-Juan Pablo Montoya, 439
2. 9-Scott Dixon, 385
3. 15-Graham Rahal, 370
4. 3-Helio Castroneves, 370
5. 1-Will Power, 369
6. 11-Sebastien Bourdais, 343
7. 27-Marco Andretti, 332
8. 10-Tony Kanaan, 314
9. 67-Josef Newgarden, 309
10. 22-Simon Pagenaud, 278

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”