For Juan Pablo Montoya, he’s got “friends in all the right places” and he heard from many of them after his victory in last Sunday’s race at Pocono. The driver from Colombia received lots of congratulatory messages from his former NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors including three-time champion Tony Stewart.
Montoya has called Stewart “America’s version of me” when it comes to racing with fierce determination and having a “I don’t care” attitude and that has served the 1999 CART champion and 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner very well in his career.
That attitude is starting to pay off in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
“People are happy and a lot of them are still around from back in the day and that is pretty cool but I’m trying not to get overly excited about it,” Montoya said. “It was really good for Verizon and PPG and everyone who supports us but we still have to come to Iowa and get the job done. I think it builds a lot of momentum and confidence that we can get it done.
“I’ll take a win there; I’ll take a win here – I’ll take a win anywhere.
“Everybody at Team Penske had won a race this year except me so I was starting to feel left out.”
And now the contenders for the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion need to start caring about Montoya, who is up to fourth in points just 55 behind his two Team Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves, who are both tied for the lead with 446 points.
“I think we have been doing a good job, we have been smart about how we run races,” Montoya said. “We have to keep doing what we’ve been doing. It’s great that we won. It’s one thing to get there; it’s another thing staying there. To stay there we really have to step it up.
“Will and Helio have been in this position before but haven’t won the championship. We have to be smart about how we race with each other to close the deal.”
Saturday night’s race is the first time he will run on a shorter oval with the high wings. In his CART days he would run the short ovals with the smaller wings so there is twice as much downforce than 14 years ago.
“It’s all about learning again because I have to figure out the wings and how close can you run and if you are comfortable running the second groove,” Montoya explained. “You have to experiment but you have to experiment carefully because if you get it wrong you are out.
“Managing traffic is very important. If you are not leading, keeping up with the leaders is going to be the key.”
Montoya’s victory at Pocono combined with fellow Colombian Carlos Munoz gave the South American country something positive after it’s national soccer team was defeated by Brazil on July 4 in the World Cup.
“We had two Colombians on the podium and that was awesome to see,” Montoya said. “I know Colombia had a tough match. To be able to start winning again for myself, that’s pretty cool.”
Be sure to catch Bruce Martin’s Honda IndyCar Report on RACEDAY on FOX Sports Radio every Sunday from 6-8 a.m. Eastern Time.