|Date: 7/7/2014 12:28:31 AM|
Juan Pablo Montoya Wins Record Setting Pocono INDYCAR 500
By DINO OBERTO
(LONG POND) It’s amazing what a yellow flag can do to change the complexity of race, especially if it’s just one.
For Juan Pablo Montoya, that one caution flag may have been the key to him winning and Tony Kanaan losing Sunday’s Pocono INDYCAR 500 Fueled by Sunoco at Pocono Raceway.
With one caution, the race was also the fastest 500 mile IndyCar race in history (202.402 mph) and the first 500-mile race with an average speed above 200 mph. The previous record was 197.995 in Fontana.
Up until lap 159 of the 200 lap race Kanaan had been on rails and running away with the race. It was on that lap that Graham Rahal spun off turn two and tagged the way. Prior to that the leaders had already made a round of pit stops, however, Kanaan made the decision to come back in and top off his tank thinking fuel gamble.
For Kanaan, it was a good try but unfortunately not good enough as he had to take on a splash of fuel while leading with three laps to go.
In second was Montoya who then took over and cruised to the victory over his Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves.
The win marks a full circle route on his return to IndyCar after spending the past 14 years in NASCAR. Prior to that Montoya was a star in the former CART Indy Car Series, was an Indy 500 champion in 2000 and raced Formula 1. Montoya also won the Michigan 500.
“It’s been a long road and this is huge and I knew I had an uphill battle. I worked really hard physically with the team. It’s such an honor to run for Roger Penske and it’s been the biggest pleasure of my life,” said Montoya.
Montoya earned his first IndyCar victory since Sept. 17, 2000, at Gateway International Raceway. A day earlier he won the pole with a record setting speed of 223.920 mph. He became the eighth different race winner through 11 rounds of the Verizon IndyCar Series season. He’s the first to win from the pole this season.
“I think it was a really good race. I felt I did a good job on the start and then I changed my fuel mixture and turned down the engine and just started saving fuel from that moment. I felt that’s what we needed to do early,” said Montoya.
“From there on it’s a matter of being in the right strategy and making the right calls and hoping things go your way.
Castroneves has moved into a tie for second in the championship with Will Power, also a member of Team Penske.
“It was tough but in the end the car was just getting better and better. Last year this was a race you had to win by fuel mileage and this year the plan changed but Roger (Penske) is a great strategist,” said Castroneves.
“Finishing second is great and I want to win as bad but I did not have the speed that Juan Pablo had. But I’m now tied for the championship and what a great deal that is.”
Power was battling for the win also but given the black flag on lap 175 after being called for blocking Castroneves. He fell back to tenth at the finish.
Carlos Munoz, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon rounded out the top five.
Prior to Sunday’s race Kanaan had led only one lap which came at this year’s Indy 500. He led a race high 78 laps.
There will be no Triple Crown winner this year. Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay was running in the top five until making stop on lap 27 with a broken suspension. He returned 17 laps later.
Jack Hawksworth, who was involved in a Saturday incident, was not cleared to drive. Officials announced that he had been diagnosed with a myocardial contusion suffered in an incident on Saturday during the second practice session.
He was evaluated at the infield care center by INDYCAR medical director Dr. Michael Olinger and later transported to Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, where he stayed overnight for observation.
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