IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Juan Pablo Montoya

Montoya Indy 500 McLaren
AP
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MotorSportsTalk looks through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, after the conclusion of the 2015 season.

Next up is the runner-up, Juan Pablo Montoya.

Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet

  • 2014: 4th Place, 1 Win, 1 Pole, 4 Podiums, 8 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 167 Laps Led, 10.7 Avg. Start, 9.7 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 2nd Place, 2 Wins, 0 Poles (started first twice via qualifying rainouts), 5 Podiums, 9 Top-5, 13 Top-10, 145 Laps Led, 6.4 Avg. Start, 6.9 Avg. Finish

It probably could have been Juan Pablo Montoya’s championship, and should have been if simply one more race result at any point over 16 races would have come good. Montoya’s frequently uttered line of “is it what it is,” while cliché, is probably a good way of describing his 2015 season.

What can you say of Montoya’s excellent car control and strategic defense in the opening six races of the year? It is what it is. Anyone who’s followed Montoya’s career since his arrival in CART as a then-23-year-old fresh-faced rookie in 1999 will know watching his on-boards is simply a joy to behold. His comeback, then defense against Will Power at this year’s Indianapolis 500 is going to be something you remember for a long time.

His qualifying this year? It is what it is, which is to say much better than it was in 2014. Montoya improved from a 10.6 average grid position to 6.4 this year, and that made the job so much easier on Sundays.

His consistent, if less than impressive string of results post-the Indianapolis 500? It is what it is. Six straight results between fourth and 10th from Detroit through Milwaukee were never dynamic drives, but always good enough to bank his points lead and get it north of 40 points.

His luck going bad in the final four races? It is what it is. Every one of the title contenders had some sort of rut during the season and Montoya’s came at the worst possible time, with a suspension failure at Iowa, getting caught out on a yellow at Mid-Ohio, and then his infamous coming-together with Will Power at Sonoma all coming when he had little to no chance of recovering.

His attitude at Sonoma and then the night after at the championship banquet? It is what it is. JPM’s infamous “Dixon had a (expletive) season” line in the Sonoma press conference came off poorly, but he course corrected rather nicely with his comments during the championship celebration Monday night.

Was it good to see Montoya back in title-contending form? Yes, it certainly was. Overall, I’m fairly certain he doesn’t care what we think of him, because it is what it is.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III