Montoya triumphant at Pocono

 

The Sports Network

Long Pond, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Juan Pablo Montoya won a North American open-wheel racing event for the first time in 14 years by prevailing in Sunday's 500-mile IndyCar Series race at Pocono Raceway.

Montoya, who claimed his maiden pole in the series on Saturday, inherited the lead with four laps to go when Tony Kanaan, who had led a race-high 78 laps, was forced to pit for fuel. The Team Penske driver crossed the finish line 2.34 seconds ahead of his teammate, Helio Castroneves. Montoya's last open- wheel victory came in a CART race at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis in September 2000. He also won the Indianapolis 500 that year.

After spending the past 13 years in Formula One and NASCAR, Montoya joined IndyCar full-time this season to drive the No. 2 car for team owner Roger Penske. The 38-year-old Colombian competed in F1 from 2001-06 and then the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from 2007-13. Montoya scored two wins in Sprint Cup, with his most recent victory occurring in August 2010 at Watkins Glen International in Upstate New York.

"I want thank Roger for believing in me after how many years out of open- wheel, coming back and believing I could do it," Montoya said. "Here we are. It's awesome that we could do it."

Montoya not only became the eighth different race winner in IndyCar this season but also the first to win an event from the pole position. He led a total of 45 laps.

"This is fantastic," he added. "Things were going good, but you never know when you're going to get a win. We did the right things and got the win, and we're at a good place at this point of the season."

Montoya gave Team Penske its eighth victory in an open-wheel event at Pocono as well.

"That's great for Juan. What a great race he ran," Roger Penske said.

Completed in 2 hours, 28 minutes and 13 seconds, this was the fastest 500-mile race in the history of this sport, as Montoya's average speed of 202.402 mph surpassed the previous 500-mile record of 197.995 mph, set by Jimmy Vasser at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California in 2002.

Pocono -- the second leg in IndyCar's "Triple Crown" -- awarded double points, allowing second-place finisher Castroneves to move into a tie with his other Penske teammate, Will Power, in the championship point standings.

Montoya is now fourth in the rankings, trailing Power and Castroneves by 55 points. Montoya has finished on the podium (top-three) in three of the last four races.

"Congrats to Montoya. Are you kidding me? This guy is unbelievable," Castroneves said. "Coming back after all those years and winning a race? As soon as they signed him, I knew he would be an asset, and a headache, for us. It's good to have a 1-2 finish. And we're tied in the championship. It's unbelievable."

Power, who entered this race with a 39-point advantage, led 69 laps but received a drive-through penalty in the late going for blocking Castroneves. Power wound up finishing 10th, one spot ahead of Kanaan, who was the last driver on the lead lap.

"Another penalty, another drive-through and another good opportunity lost," Power said with disappointment."

Rookie Carlos Munoz finished third, while Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon rounded out the top-five. Dixon won last year's race at Pocono, which was 400 miles in distance, and then went on to capture his third IndyCar championship.

Simon Pagenaud, who won the second race in last weekend's doubleheader in Houston, placed sixth, followed by rookie Mikhail Aleshin, Josef Newgarden and Marco Andretti. Pagenaud is 44 points out of the lead.

Ryan Hunter-Reay finished 18th after winning the May 25 Indianapolis 500, the first leg in the Triple Crown. Hunter-Reay suffered a broken suspension early in the race and spent more than 15 laps behind the wall for repairs before returning.

The Aug. 30 season-finale at Fontana will be the last round in this year's Triple Crown, awarding double points.

Rookie Jack Hawksworth did not compete in this race after he was diagnosed with a myocardial (heart) contusion, which he suffered during an accident in Saturday's second practice session. Hawksworth was evaluated at the infield care center and later transported by ground to Lehigh Valley Health Network in nearby Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he was held overnight for observation. IndyCar medical officials did not clear him to race. The 23-year-old Englishman finished a career-best third in Houston.

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