Montoya enjoys hard charge from 21st to fifth at Barber

Photo: IndyCar

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Juan Pablo Montoya asked “what the hell happened?” on Saturday when his No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet wasn’t good on the Firestone red alternate tires as he’d have expected.

Then on Sunday, the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series field asked “what the hell happened?” when Montoya made it up from 21st and last to 12th – nine places higher – by the first completed lap on Lap 3, and then to seventh place by Lap 21.

Ultimately Montoya was only able to gain two further spots from there, and finished fifth in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, but it was a dynamic drive that will likely pay dividends for him down the road the rest of the 2016 season.

“It was fun; there were people making mistakes,” Montoya told NBC Sports post-race. “It’s hard because you want to be really aggressive but you don’t want to be the guy making the mistakes, so you got to be smart about it and it worked out pretty well. It was tough, but you’ve got to manage cars in that situation.”

Montoya also had a front row seat to the chaotic start to the race, when Carlos Munoz, Mikhail Aleshin and Jack Hawksworth had an accordion effect accident and the start was delayed.

Montoya said a win wasn’t a realistic target, but a top-five finish certainly was.

“I could see where Simon (polesitter) was and I was going on start/finish line and Simon was coming to turn five so without a caution it was going to be impossible,” he said.

“I was surprised they were only that far ahead and I was actually gaining on them.

“I think I had the speed to win the race today, so it was pretty encouraging.”

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

Petit Le Mans lineup

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.



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