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Monday, September 16, 2013

Montoya Joins Penske

Penske Racing announced via press release late Monday morning the signing of Juan Pablo Montoya to the team's IZOD IndyCar Series program.

"In a way, it's always been one of my dreams to be able to be part of this organization," said Montoya. "And being here, it's unbelievable.  I'm just so excited, I can't believe.  I'm like a five‑year‑old kid right now."

Montoya will pilot the #2 yet-to-be-sponsored Team Penske entry alongside teammates Helio Castroneves and Will Power, who have also been confirmed for a return next season.

The Colombian returns to American Open-Wheel for the first time since the 1999-00 CART seasons where he earned 10 wins, the '99 championship and the 2000 Indianapolis 500.

“Juan is a proven winner at all levels of motorsport,” said Roger Penske. “He has won a lot of races and championships and he has an extremely passionate fan base. We look forward to building on his successes together and we believe he will be a great addition to Team Penske.”

Montoya became a free agent earlier this year when it was announced that he would not be returning to the Chip Ganassi Racing Sprint Cup program he's competed in full-time since 2007. Since, Montoya has been linked to various NASCAR programs, including Kurt Busch's soon-to-be vacant Furniture Row ride, and Andretti Autosport made it known that they've had talks advancing to finding a partial 2014 budget. Just days ago the reining IZOD IndyCar Series Championship winning teams was notified by Juan that he would not be joining the team.

According to Penske Racing President, Tim Cindric, talks of a possible deal started on pit-lane during the August 18th Sprint Cup race weekend at the Michigan International Speedway.

"I tried to call him [Chip Ganassi] this morning to tell him about it, and actually we texted because he was in Europe," the long time Ganassi employee said. "I feel like he was very excited for me.  Something that we have with Chip is that we are very good friends.  We have a lot of respect for each other."

The 37-year-old is well aware he can't just jump back into an open-wheel car and become competitive. It'll take preparation.

"The conditioning is a big part of it.  You know, since the moment I became a free agent, I wanted the opportunity in open‑wheel and I've been training really hard. I know I have a long way to go to where I want to be.  I know what it takes to be in the shape that you need to be in to win and be a champion. So I'm working towards that goal, and the good thing is that we've got a lot of time until the first race, so I've got a lot of time to prepare myself physically and mentally for it.

I think having the seven years of NASCAR and then my open‑wheel experience before that, I think I'm pretty excited about going to the ovals.  I know we don't go to a lot, but you know, the one you want to win, it's an oval.  You want to win the Indy 500.  I'm excited about that.  I have the opportunity to be in the car at Indy and I think with Penske it is going to be huge.

And I think the other one is going to be a process.  I normally pick up things really quick; all my career I have.  As I said before, having Will and Helio as teammates helping me out is going to really help me get up to speed.  I'm going to have to learn a lot again, but I'm up to the challenge – that is the No. 1 thing."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Photos: IMS Firestone Tire Test

Thursday, September 5, 2013

PHOTOS: Rahal, Briscoe Run Successful IMS Test

Honda representative Graham Rahal and Chevrolet driver Ryan Briscoe's Wednesday test at IMS was both successful and -- despite a few squirly moments through Turns 8, 9 and 10 of the F1 layout -- incident free.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR held the feasibility test to gain information to bring to the Board of Directors who will determine the future of a possible IZOD IndyCar Series event at a meeting later this month. Derrick Walker, INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations, spent much of the day on a golf cart scouting every twist and turn. Walker will likely have an important voice on any of the expected improvements to the course.

"We wanted to evaluate the racetrack as it is," said the newly named President of Competition and Operations. "There are a number of ideas to improve overtaking and making the racing more interesting perhaps than it was during the Formula One days. I'm not sure the Speedway needs to make monster changes. There could be some alterations that would improve the racing short term, and then I think if the fans come, you keep doing more and keep doing more. I think you could develop a really unique racetrack out of the infield."

Rahal turned 64 laps on the day and along with his father, Bobby, supports the prospects of an event.

“I think that having a road race here would be great," said the 24-year-old Rahal. "We’re not going to fill this place, we all know that but it really doesn’t matter, it’s a totally different thing (from the Indy 500). We really don’t use much of the oval so I think it would be really cool. The layout is going to change. I actually, quite frankly, like the current one; I was having a ball. It’s slippery but that makes it kind of enjoyable. We will have to see what changes are made in the future but what I found is that the braking zones are extremely grippy therefore you can brake really late and have some opportunities for guys to go side-by-side on a lot of parts of the track and I think that would put on a good show.  Ultimately with the long straightaway, using part of the oval there you are going to see huge variation in setup, huge variation in the race. Guys can run a lot of downforce to try to be really quick in the infield and try to pull away enough that on the straightaway he doesn’t get passed. And you are going to see guys that trim it all out and be 15 mph faster on the straight but struggle in the infield and I think that could make the racing extremely exciting."

Briscoe, who was a late add to the test, walked away with positive reviews as well.

"It was definitely strange to be coming off the wrong way on the frontstretch," Briscoe said. "It's a pretty good track, actually. It's got a lot of high-speed corners. Turn 13 (oval Turn 1) is really fast. A lot of high load in the steering wheel and very different to what we do here on the 2.5-mile oval. It's a really different feeling going the other way."

Both cars turned laps on the clockwise Formula 1 track as well as the counter-clockwise MotoGP version and a few laps were turned in the afternoon session using the red sidewall softer compound tire. Rahal and Briscoe both preferred the F1 clockwise direction.

"It's a good road course. As you come down the middle stretch (Hulman Boulevard), it's a very fast corner, and it would make passing difficult," commented, Briscoe. "If you came down that straight into a tighter corner, it would help the racing a little bit. The layout is really nice. It's fast and it's pretty physical, as well."

INDYCAR hopes to announce the full 2014 schedule in the coming weeks.