Verizon IndyCar Series Headlines:
1. ABC Supply to title Pocono race
2. Montoya comes full circle at St. Petersburg
3. Inside the box score – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
4. Of note:
• Castroneves takes spin with Detroit Pistons
• Bourdais logs best start at St. Pete
• Show car on display at Long Beach Airport
• HoneyBaked Ham to back Clauson
1. ABC Supply to title Pocono race: The penultimate race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season Aug. 23 at Pocono Raceway has been renamed the ABC Supply 500. The racetrack in Pennsylvania and the building supplies distributor announced the entitlement earlier today.
Pocono Raceway will host the Verizon IndyCar Series for the third consecutive year for the 200-lap race that will play a crucial role in the championship. Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29, won at Pocono from the pole last year.
“ABC Supply is a true industry leader and their love of racing couples our own,” said Pocono Raceway president and CEO Brandon Igdalsky. “They have been involved in motorsports for over 10 years now and we are thrilled to welcome them to our extended Raceway family. We cannot wait to work with them to promote the ABC Supply 500 this year.”
ABC Supply Co. also is the primary sponsor of the Nos. 14 and 41 AJ Foyt Enterprises cars of Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth, and is the race entitlement sponsor of the July 12 race in Milwaukee.
“For a decade now, our racing program has brought thousands of our associates and customers together to celebrate and cheer for our team,” ABC Supply vice president of operations Mike Jost said. “This year we are excited to have the chance to increase awareness of both ABC racing and INDYCAR in general with our sponsorship of the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.”
Wisconsin-based ABC Supply is in its 10th season as sponsor of the AJ Foyt Racing entries. Foyt won Indy car races at Pocono Raceway in 1973, ’75, ’79 and ’81.
“It means a lot to me that ABC Supply is sponsoring the IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway this year,” Foyt said. “ABC Supply has been a great sponsor for me and for INDYCAR for the past 10 years, so I’m glad to see them align themselves with Pocono. Pocono Raceway has always been one of my favorite tracks because I really enjoyed racing there.
“The owners, the late Doc Mattioli and his wife Dr. Rose, were and continue to be really good friends of mine. Their grandsons, Brandon and Nick, have done a great job following in their footsteps with all they have done at the track in recent years. I think the fans will see another fun and competitive Indy race there this year.”
2. Montoya comes full circle at St. Petersburg: Foremost, Juan Pablo Montoya had to be honest with himself early in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Qualifying 18th and finishing 15th in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was an inauspicious start, and though he could easily have put the emphasis on acclimation to a new car and racetracks after a 14-year hiatus from Indy car racing, Montoya said he “had to grow as a driver.”
“Last year was a tough year for us at the beginning. We knew that,” said Montoya, who won the 1999 CART title and 2000 Indianapolis 500 before moving to Formula One and then on to stock car racing. “We knew it would be a process to get to where we needed to be. Normally I’m really good at remembering everything about every track and last year I think this was such a blur for me. I was so overwhelmed with everything that I didn’t really pay too much attention to details.
“It was tough not only (at St. Petersburg) but generally on the street courses. I’m a guy that always excelled at street courses everywhere I raced. To come (to St. Petersburg) and have a year with really bad street course racing, it was pretty tough.”
On balance, Montoya quickly found his footing on the diverse set of street/road courses and ovals. Two weeks after St. Petersburg, he advanced 12 positions to place fourth at Long Beach. He finished fifth in the Indianapolis 500 and then strung together four top-10 finishes, capped by a victory from the pole at Pocono Raceway in early July. Claiming three consecutive top-five finishes to close the season and finish fourth in the championship standings sparked confidence that carried through the long offseason.
Now, a year after his heralded return, Montoya has come full circle by winning the 110-lap opener on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit. He held off Team Penske teammate and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power over a 27-lap duel of wits and will to win by .9930 of a second. All four Team Penske drivers finished in the top five (Helio Castroneves was third and Simon Pagenaud was fifth). Castroneves’ Lap 90 time of 1 minute, 01.8607 seconds in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet was the fastest race lap in the 11 events under INDYCAR sanction at St. Petersburg.
“It’s a good way to start the year,” said Montoya, who qualified fourth in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. “We worked really hard in the offseason preparing for this. We wanted to hit the ground running. Our car was unbelievable. It was fast and it was fun. To win on a street course after my performance last year, I’m like ‘Oh, yeah.”’
Suddenly, championship talk has germinated. The motorsports veteran will take it in stride, looking to further hone his race craft and continue to develop the Chevrolet aerodynamic bodywork package on the upcoming road and street course at NOLA Motorsports Park for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana on April 12, the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 26 and the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9 before the 99th Indianapolis 500.
“The fun factor is that you can win races,” said Montoya, who celebrated the victory trackside with a sizable Colombian contingent. “I mean, I feel like I’m in the best team. I have a great sponsor. We’re performing well. What’s the downside of it?”
3. Inside the box score – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg: Numbers to note following the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — the opening round of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
1.44 – Average running position of runner-up Will Power for the 110 laps of racing at St. Petersburg. Power led 75 laps.
2.83 – Average running position of winner Juan Pablo Montoya for the 110 laps of racing at St. Petersburg.
4 – Positions gained by Jack Hawksworth in the final 11 laps of the race. (12th to eighth).
6 – Consecutive races at St. Petersburg led by Will Power.
7 – Lead changes in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The previous 10 averaged 6.5 lead changes.
13 – Career Indy car victories by Juan Pablo Montoya, tying him with Tom Sneva for 32nd all-time…Positions improved by Jack Hawksworth (21st to eighth), most of any driver in the race.
17 – Finishing position of Gabby Chaves, the highest-placed Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate.
21.7 – Percentage of races that Juan Pablo Montoya has won in his Indy car career (13 for 60).
30 – Number of laps in which Jack Hawksworth improved his position – most of any driver in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
66 – Races led by Will Power since the beginning of 2010, a span of 87 races.
119 – Career top-five finishes for Tony Kanaan (third place in race) and Helio Castroneves (fourth place) after their finishes at St. Pete. The pair is tied with Scott Dixon, Bobby Rahal and Dario Franchitti for sixth all-time.
175 – Indy car races won by cars owned by Roger Penske. Team Penske has 97 oval wins and 78 road/street course wins.
219 – Number of total on-track passes in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Rookie Stefano Coletti had 18, most of any driver.
234 – Consecutive starts by Tony Kanaan, extending his all-time record.
4. Of note: Castroneves takes spin with Detroit Pistons: Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves and Shannon Sailes, the “Dancing Usher,” entertained fans on the Detroit Pistons’ “Dance Cam” on March 31. The duo instigated the skit during a second-quarter timeout that even caught the attention of players at The Palace of Auburn Hills. “Doing the dance with Shannon was a blast. He is a really good dancer and I like his moves,” Castroneves said. “I’m glad he wasn’t on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ when I was there. I have hung up my dancing shoes these days but I was able to bring out a few moves to keep it interesting.” … Bourdais logs best start at St. Pete: Sebastien Bourdais’ sixth place in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was his best finish in an Indy car season opener since 2006, when he won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on his way to the Champ Car title. It also was his best finish in five starts in St. Petersburg, where he resides. … Show car on display at Long Beach Airport: Travelers passing through Long Beach International Airport will see a Verizon IndyCar Series car in the terminal to promote the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19. … HoneyBaked Ham to back Clauson: HoneyBaked Ham of Bloomington, Ind., will be an associate sponsor of the KVSH/Jonathan Byrd’s Racing entry in the Indianapolis 500 driven by Bryan Clauson.