Maybe you can teach old dogs new tricks? Indycar’s prodigal son Juan Pablo Montoya came full circle yesterday, claiming the win at the Pocono 500 after five-hundred miles of gruelling duelling around the “Tricky Triangle”.

In doing so, Montoya took out the second leg of the 2014 Triple Crown and became the first driver this year to win from pole position, his first CART/IndyCar pole since Surfers Paradise way back in 2000.

The wily Colombian said the win also felt like a bit of redemption against his Brazilian team-mate Hélio Castroneves, with the two veterans engaging in some friendly World Cup competition, which on that occasion saw Hélio’s team come out on top in the quarter-final match held a few days ago.

Since Montoya’s last open-wheel victory in an American series, which occurred at Gateway, Illinois in 2000, he has tried his hand at Formula 1, NASCAR and Grand-Am Racing, all with varying levels of success. On this day at Pocono, the perfect fuel strategy paid off, while just a few laps less or more could have delivered a totally different winner.

One car was missing from the start – that of promising rookie Jack Hawksworth. The young Brit suffered a crash in the final practice session which, by all camera angles, looked less severe than it ended up being. Hawksworth’s car snapped around at high speed and grazed the wall at a side impact. Later readings showed this impact to be at a bone-crunching 100G Force deceleration absorbed by Hawksworth. While he managed to extricate himself from the car and was helped to the medical car, the mandatory examination discovered a heart contusion (bruising of the heart) which resulted in a trip to hospital and non-clearance to race. Hawksworth will now be evaluated prior to this weekend’s race at Iowa. Team owner Bryan Herta said his young charger was more pissed off than regretful at having missed the race.

Like its preceding 500-mile event, the Indianapolis 500, Pocono delivered green flag racing for at least the first 150 laps. However, unlike Indy, Ryan Hunter-Reay was quickly removed from all contention of winning. Early on, RHR’s car mishandled a bump, which broke the rear suspension springs and nearly forced the car to bottom out. Mechanics got to work upon being presented with the problem however were unable to remedy the situation in pitlane. The decision was made to bring the car back to the garage, at which point Hunter-Reay removed his helmet.

The team was eventually able to install new springs and return their Indy 500 winning driver to action, albeit 18 laps down, however with double points at stake, it was crucial that an attempt to salvage whatever was possible from the afternoon was made. Hunter-Reay eventually finished in 18th place.

The first and only caution of the day came out on Lap 162, caused by Graham Rahal, who mysteriously spun soon after exiting Turn 2. Rahal’s National Guard machine snapped around at high speed, performing two 360-degree pirouettes before coming to a stop. Only very light contact was made with the wall at the end, with no contact made during the spin itself. Pundits and team boss Bobby Rahal speculated causes ranging from a puncture to an engine seizure but regardless, Rahal Jnr’s day was done.

Throughout the afternoon, no incidents of note occurred on pit lane. The closest to any such thing occurred when Mikhail Aleshin’s car entered the pits and promptly lost power to the engine. Pit lane officials moved his car to the side while pit stops were carried out before allowing the Russian to be pushed to his pit stall by the crew.

Running strong all day alongside Montoya was Will Power and Tony Kanaan, both of whom looked likely for the win at different stages. For Kanaan, cruel luck with his fuel strategy saw him needing to pit for an emergency splash of ethanol with only two laps to go. Naturally upset with his misfortune, Kanaan commandeered a moped and headed for the garage immediately after the race and without giving any media interviews.

Will Power’s push for glory came unstuck at Lap 175 while attempting to defend the rapid advances of teammate Castroneves down the long and wide pit straight. With a strong run on the Aussie, Power appeared to move twice to defend his line, the move futile as Castroneves was able to pass anyway. But Power again ran afoul of stewards, who issued him with a drive-through penalty for blocking. In all fairness and objectivity, replays did clearly show two moves by Power to impede Castroneves, so the penalty was justified and quickly served. The Brazilian went on to finish the race in second place, expressing his sympathies to Power at the end of the race but said the call was not up to him.

Following Kanaan’s late stop, Montoya was left with a clear road ahead to claim the win, his first in America in 14 years and elevating him to fourth place in the championship standings. The varying fortunes of his two Team Penske teammates coincidentally led to Castroneves now dead equal with Will Power at the head of the table.

From the Tricky Triangle and the Pocono Speedway, the cars will now have a little more downforce added to rear wings as the circus moves west to Des Moines, Iowa and the ultra-short 0.875-mile Bullring for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 this weekend. No rest for the wicked, which is a good thing because this series is really beginning to fire up.


2014 IndyCar Series Pocono IndyCar 500 – Race Result (200 laps):

Driver Team / Entry Result
1. Juan Pablo Montoya Team Penske Chevrolet Chevrolet 2:28:13.1798
2. Hélio Castroneves Team Penske Chevrolet Chevrolet + 2.3403
3. Carlos Muñoz Andretti Autosport Honda Honda + 2.9653
4. Ryan Briscoe Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet + 3.8431
5. Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet + 4.6933
6. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda Honda + 6.0105
7. Mikhail Aleshin Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda Honda + 8.3658
8. Josef Newgarden Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda Honda + 8.9506
9. Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport Honda Honda + 9.4477
10. Will Power Team Penske Chevrolet Chevrolet + 17.2301
11. Tony Kanaan Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet + 22.0701
12. James Hinchcliffe ca Andretti Autosport Honda Honda – 1 lap
13. Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet – 1 lap
14. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne Racing Honda Honda – 1 lap
15. Sebastián Saavedra KV Racing Technology / AFS Racing Honda Honda – 1 lap
16. Sébastien Bourdais KV Racing Technology Honda Honda – 1 lap
17. Charlie Kimball Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet – 2 laps
18. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Honda Honda – 19 laps
Not Classified
DNF. Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda Honda 157 laps
DNF. Carlos Huertas Dale Coyne Racing Honda Honda 89 laps
DNF. Takuma Sato A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda Honda 25 laps
DNS. Jack Hawksworth Bryan Herta Autosport Honda Honda

Image via Motorsport.com

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Matt Lennon

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