COURTESY OF IMSA

Juan Pablo Montoya on his new home in driving IMSA: ‘I love this’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Similar to his Team Penske compatriot Helio Castoneves, Juan Pablo Montoya is happy to have found a new full-time home driving an Acura DPI in the IMSA Series.

But unlike Castroneves, who said in a recent NASCAR on NBC Podcast that he lamented the end of his IndyCar career like pining after a former girlfriend, Montoya typically is much more ambivalent about the past series he’s raced.

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“For me, it’s amazing,” the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner said of IMSA. “I love this. I don’t miss IndyCar one bit. I think these cars drive better.

“Somebody asked me the other day (to) list cars in order of how good they drove to bad, and from feeling, this is second to Formula One. The feeling, the balance and how well-built the car is, I think this drives second to a Formula One car.”

“Oh yes. When I came back to Indy cars, I was surprised how bad they drove. You get used to them, and you get on with the program and drive them and make the most out of it. But as a pleasure to drive? (The Acura) is way above that.”

This is a familiar refrain for the Colombian, who struck a similar tone when he rejoined IndyCar five years ago after leaving NASCAR and when he left Formula One for NASCAR in 2006.

His cold-blooded swashbuckling style is part of his worldwide fan appeal, and the insouciance also applies to the way he drives on track.

In IndyCar, Formula One and NASCAR, Montoya’s reputation was well established for being assertive in taking positions.

Has he driven differently since moving full time to IMSA last season?

“I think I do, but people don’t think so,” Montoya said with a laugh. “They think I take a lot of risks. I really don’t. I go through holes. I feel there’s a lot of lap time (to be gained) there without taking too many risks.

“So I pass people where people sometimes don’t expect it, and they get pissed about it. Because I know the feeling when you go in somewhere, and you’re braking, and suddenly this car shows up next to you. It’s not a good feeling. But I don’t run into them. I don’t bounce into them. I try not to hit anybody.”

Montoya went winless last season as Penske returned to sports cars after a hiatus of several seasons. He certainly is in his element at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, where he is making his ninth start and has three overall victories with Chip Ganassi Racing (2007, ’08 and ’13).

Montoya estimated that he once drove nearly half of the 24-hour race during his Ganassi days, and the team also allowed him to drive the closing stint several times.

But this will be the first time he starts the race, though, after qualifying his No. 6 Acura Penske third despite some cockpit problems (teammate Ricky Taylor will start second behind pole-sitter Oliver Jarvis’ record-setting lap for Mazda Team Joest).

“Mazda looks really, really strong,” said Montoya, who is sharing his ride with Dane Cameron (his full-time teammate) and 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud. “I think everyone’s question with them is reliability. I don’t think they even know how good they’re going to be because they’ve been having some issues. But that’s the crazy thing. They built a new engine, just came up with new parts and the thing lasts 24 hours, and that’s it.”

Montoya, who drove in IndyCar for Penske from 2014-17 after a 2007-13 stint in NASCAR and 2001-06 foray in F1, is confident about his team’s chances but is concerned about reliability because of the stress from increased speeds.

“I think we’ve got a very solid package,” he said. “I think the Cadillacs and us are solid competitors and are cars that will run all day with no issues. I think if the pace is as fast as last year, it’s going to be tough on the cars.

“We’re running 3 seconds quicker on the same brakes with the same cooling. You can stand on the brakes so much harder than before, you can go so much deeper than before. You’re beating on the brakes. Everything works a lot hotter and more on the limit. If you do that for 24 hours, the brake ducts and everything starts getting dirty, you start having issues. The team needs to stay on top of it, and you need to realize it.”

Cooper Webb beats Ken Roczen in Arlington Supercross photo finish

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Cooper Webb scored his fourth win of the season in a photo finish over Ken Roczen in Round 7 of Supercross competition.

It was a remarkable end to a barn burner race.

Roczen was still looking for his first win since San Diego in 2017. He took the lead from Eli Tomac on Lap 4 as the pair came out of the whoops. Roczen held the lead for the next 21 circuits. On Lap 4, Webb was mired in sixth – the worst position among the top four contenders that entered the event with only two points separating them.

Webb mounted his charge at that point, meticulously picking off the competition until he was embroiled in a heated battle with Marvin Musquin. Webb knew that his only shot at catching Roczen was to get past Musquin as quickly as possible, but he could not run the risk of taking his teammate down. Webb passed Musquin on Lap 19 and began picking at Roczen’s lead.

With time off the clock and the final lap underway. Webb was on Roczen’s back tire hoping to force a mistake. When that did not come, Webb dove into the final turn to get side-by-side with Roczen and break the leader’s momentum. The two crossed under the checkers in a virtual tie. Webb beat Roczen by two-hundredths of a second – the closest margin in Supercross history.

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“That was just insanity,” Webb told NBCSN after the race. “It was clicking I guess.”

Webb’s win gave him the points lead and the red plate.

Musquin rounded out the top three to keep the points battle tight. This is Musquin’s fifth consecutive finish of either second or third.

On Lap 1, the race had a completely different storyline. Tomac took the early lead ahead of Roczen and Musquin. Webb was seventh and it appeared he would be the first of the top four to blink.

Instead, it was Tomac that bobbled. He went down on Lap 6 and kept falling until he landed 12th. This was the first time he’s failed to finish among the top 10. The disappointing finish dropped him 16 points off the pace, fourth in the standings.

Blake Baggett and Joey Savatgy rounded out the top five.

Zach Osborne’s return to Supercross was not what he expected. Osborne was running eighth when he got crossed up and went over the tough blocks on Lap 8. He could not return to the race and finished 22nd after a dramatic showing in his heat.

Complete Results
Points Standings

250s

Round 2 of 250s East started where Round 1 ended – with Austin Forkner in the lead. This was the first time in more than a decade that a rider had perfect nights in the first two rounds. Forkner had to overcome mistakes in timed practice after going off track once and nearly landing on another rider on a separate occasion. That contact might have ended his night before it began.

Instead, Forkner posted a lap of 50.899 – his fastest of the night – on the second trip around the track in the Feature. As he got into traffic, the lap times slipped into the 52-second range.

Helping Forkner to his dominant win was the fact that no one seemed to want second place.

Chase Sexton was Forkner’s closest competition for the first half of the race. He stalled and lost second to Jordon Smith at the midway point. On Lap 15, he went down and fell to fourth. Now 13 seconds behind the leader, his chance of winning was done. Sexton recovered to finish third and land on the final step on the podium

On Lap 18, Jordon Smith laid his bike down while running second; he ultimately crossed under the checkers fourth.

Their mistakes allowed Justin Cooper to climb into the runner-up position and secure the second position in the points standings.

Martin Davalos rounded out the top five.

Complete Results
Points Standings

450 Heat 1: Ken Roczen led every lap on his way to a 4.8-second win over Justin Hill. … Joey Savatgy rounded out the top three. … Zach Osborne got off to a tough start on his return to Supercross. He went down on Lap 1 after burying the front wheel. Osborne almost saved his bike, but got run over from behind by Aaron Plessinger. Osborne fell to 18th on the first lap; improved to 15th by Lap 2. He kept rolling, picking off one spot per lap. Osborne grabbed the final transfer spot from Kyle Chisholm just as time ran off the clock.

450 Heat 2: Cole Seely took the lead from Chad Reed on Lap 1 and held it to the checkers. After Roczen took the Heat 2 win, the battle for the championship was previewed in Heat 2, however; Eli Tomac caught up to Seely’s back wheel, but came up about a half second short. … Cooper Webb showed he is not going to be overshadowed in the playoff battle with a third-place finish. … Marvin Musquin finished seventh.

450 Last Chance Qualifier: Justin Barcia flat out dominated the LCQ with a 12.5-second win over Alex Ray. … Kyle Chisholm finished third. Ronnie Stewart lost the final transfer spot to Scott Champion on the last lap – but not for long. Champion went down as he was headed for the checkers and gave the position back to Stewart. … Tyler Bowers was disqualified before the beginning of the LCQ for running into Barcia during their heat race.

250 Heat 1: Mitchell Oldenburg blazed into the lead with the holeshot and grabbed a 1.4 second lead by the end of Lap 1. It was Oldenburg’s first heat win of the season. … He held that advantage through the end of the heat and beat Justin Cooper and Alex Martin. … With time running off the clock, Lorenzo Locurcio took the final transfer spot of ninth.

250 Heat 2: Austin Forkner and Jordon Smith went side by side on Lap 5 with Forkner blasting past on the whoops to win the heat. … Smith held on for second with Martin Davalos rounding out the top three. … Kyle Peters almost provided the drama of the night exiting Turn 1. He got wiggly in a big pack and bunched up the riders from seventh on back. Peters recovered to finish fifth. … The final transfer spot came down to a three-man battle between Brandon Hartranft (eighth), Joshua Cartwright (ninth) and Steven Clarke just missing in 10th. … Joey Crown joined Clarke in the LCQ after finishing 11th.

250 Last Chance Qualifier: Kyle Cunningham was seventh at the end of Lap 1, but he picked up two positions per lap until he was third on Lap 3. He took the lead on Lap 5 and held it till the end over Ramyller Alves and Steven Clarke. … TJ Albright grabbed the holeshot, but lost the lead to Clarke on Lap 3. He fell back to fourth and was under heavy pressure from Jayce Pennington until the two riders made contact with on the final lap. Albright survived to finish fourth; Pennington finished a distant 16th.

Points Leaders

450s
Cooper Webb (150) (4 wins)
Ken Roczen (148)
Marvin Musquin (144)
Eli Tomac (134) (1 win)
Dean Wilson (110)

250s West
Adam Cianciarulo (114 points) (3 wins)
Shane McElrath (106) (1)
Colt Nichols (104) (1)
Dylan Ferrandis (102)
RJ Hampshire (75)

250s East
Austin Forkner (52 points) (2 wins)
Justin Cooper (44)
Jordon Smith (42)
Chase Sexton (39)
Alex Martin (34)
Mitchell Oldenburg (34)

Top 5s

450 top 5s
Ken Roczen: 7
Marvin Musquin: 6
Eli Tomac: 5
Cooper Webb: 5
Blake Baggett: 3
Dean Wilson: 2
Joey Savatgy: 2
Jason Anderson: 1
Justin Barcia: 1
Justin Bogle: 1
Chad Reed: 1
Justin Brayton: 1

250 West top 5s
Adam Cianciarulo: 5
Shane McElrath: 5
Colt Nichols: 4
RJ Hampshire: 3
Dylan Ferrandis: 3
James Decotis: 2
Jacob Hayes: 1
Garrett Marchbanks: 1
Jess Pettis: 1

250 East top 5s
Austin Forkner: 2
Jordon Smith: 2
Justin Cooper: 2
Chase Sexton: 2
Alex Martin: 1
Martin Davalos: 1

Next race: February 23, Ford Field, Detroit, Mich.

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