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Montoya set for Team Penske Indy 500 return in 2017

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Tim Cindric said during a teleconference after Josef Newgarden was signed to Team Penske that the door remained open to Juan Pablo Montoya at the team there if he wanted it to be.

Yes, it would only be for an Indianapolis 500-only entry and a potential sports car program if one develops – as has been rumored – but it would still be with Team Penske.

And Montoya is set to do just that, per multiple reports.

Blogger “For The Love of Indy” caught Montoya, who was in Mexico this weekend for the Mexican Grand Prix and wound up doing the podium interviews, speaking to Helmut Marko and Christian Horner of Red Bull Racing. The user picked up Montoya discussing his 2017 plans on the world feed – hinting he’d planned to stay with Penske (tweet one, tweet two, and blog post).

That initial rumbling grew into a proper full-blown report late tonight on Motorsport.com, where Penske Racing president Tim Cindric confirmed Montoya was interested in taking up the offer of a fifth car, Indianapolis-only, with Penske next year. That would be unprecedented.

“It does seem as though Juan thinks that remaining at Team Penske is the right move for him so we’re now planning accordingly,” Cindric told Motorsport.com’s David Malsher.

The report also popped late Monday night via the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile app, with a similar tone that Montoya would be back with Penske next year.

The move is a domino effect for a couple reasons.

One, it takes Montoya out of full-time ride opportunities with Ed Carpenter Racing and A.J. Foyt Enterprises, where he could have served as lead driver. This opens up both those spots for younger drivers, most likely.

Second, it means Team Penske will be a five-car program for the first time in its history at Indy. Montoya joins the full-season quartet of newly crowned champion Simon Pagenaud, newly signed full-season driver Josef Newgarden, past champion Will Power and three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves.

Third, it means the likelihood of a Penske sports car program is greater rather than not at the moment. Montoya wouldn’t pass up a full-season drive, especially with the motivation of wanting to recover from a frustrating 2017, if it didn’t mean there wasn’t something else bubbling in the pipeline. And for Montoya, having the chance to win another Indianapolis 500 – it would be his third – still has a strong chance there.

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

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