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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.

WATCH LIVE: IndyCar practice and qualifying at Laguna Seca

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For the first time in 15 years, Indy cars will be racing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and the stakes have never been higher.

Tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Monterey is the final race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, and with four drivers mathematically eligible for the series championship, there will be plenty of story lines to follow.

Current series points leader Josef Newgarden enters this weekend with a 41-point lead over second-place Alexander Rossi.

A California native, Rossi attended his first IndyCar race with his father as child at Laguna Seca when he was three years old.

He now hopes to win his first IndyCar championship at the track where he fell in love with the sport, but after suffering a broken bolt in practice 1 yesterday, he will need to find speed in P3 and qualifying today in order to put himself in the best position to fight for the title.

Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon are also in contention to win the championship this weekend, and another title would only add to their already illustrious IndyCar careers.

Leigh Diffey, Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell will call today’s on-track action from the booth, while Marty Snider, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller will report from the pits.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All times are Eastern)

Saturday 9/21, 1 p.m. ET, IndyCar Practice 3, NBC Sports Gold 

Saturday 9/21, 4:30 p.m. ET, IndyCar Qualifying, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold

Saturday 9/21, 6 p.m. ET, Indy Lights Race 1, NBC Sports Gold 

 

For sessions on NBC Sports Gold, be sure to have your username and password handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.