Montoya enjoys hard charge from 21st to fifth at Barber

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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.”