Montoya set for Team Penske Indy 500 return in 2017

Getty Images
0 Comments

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.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
0 Comments

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)