INDYCAR News and Notes – Aug. 19, 2015

1. Montoya a Master of 500-Mile Races
2. 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship Facts
3. Honda Celebrates 20th Anniversary of 1st Indy Car Win
4. Foyt Will Miss Final Two Races of Season
5. Of Note

1. Montoya a Master of 500-Mile Races: Even though he has seen what was a commanding championship lead become tenuous, Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya maintains an unwavering mental approach for the final two races of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

“The best way to earn points is winning, and we can only control what we do, not what others do,” said Montoya, who enters the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 23 with a nine-point lead over Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal and a 34-point margin on Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon. “It’s unfortunate that we have given back some points over the last few races. Our results at Iowa and Mid-Ohio weren’t anything that we could control. The No. 2 Verizon Chevy team gave me good cars and we had ourselves in decent positions to have good finishes.”

If history is a guide, Montoya has an edge this weekend at Pocono, winning from the pole there in 2014. In 10 previous 500-mile races during his Indy car career, Montoya has won four times, led in all 10 and his average position of finish is 3.3. Last year’s Pocono race had but a single caution period and set an Indy car record for 500-mile races with an average winning speed of 202.402 mph.

The top 10 drivers in points are still mathematically eligible for the title heading to Pocono. With double points available in the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma available on Aug. 30, any driver within 104 points of the leader after Pocono still has a shot heading to Sonoma Raceway.

“It’s going to be right down to the wire,” said Roger Penske, owner of Montoya’s car and those of fellow championship contenders Helio Castroneves and Will Power. “Dixon is very good out there. Rahal is on a bit of a roll right now. We just have to keep our head on, and I think Montoya is the kind of guy you want on your driver’s team when it comes down to a fight.”

2. 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship Facts: Juan Pablo Montoya leads the Verizon IndyCar Series championship with two races remaining. It is the second time in his Indy car career he has led at this stage of a season. In 1999, Montoya led the CART championship with two races to go and went on to win the title in a tie-breaker over Dario Franchitti.

Other championship facts heading to the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway:

• Montoya has led the championship since winning the opening round of the 16-race season at St. Petersburg in March. His largest margin over second place was 54 points following the 12th race, the ABC Supply Co. Inc. Wisconsin 250 at The Milwaukee Mile on July 12. The nine-point edge Montoya currently holds over Graham Rahal is the narrowest since Montoya led Will Power by five points following the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, the fifth race of the season, on May 9.

• There are 10 drivers still mathematically eligible for the 2015 championship: Montoya, Rahal, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Power, Sebastien Bourdais, Marco Andretti, Josef Newgarden, Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud. Five of those drivers – Montoya, Dixon, Power, Bourdais and Kanaan – have previously won an Indy car title.

• Since Indy cars first raced at Pocono in 1971, the winning driver at the track has gone on to win the championship six times: Joe Leonard (1972), A.J. Foyt (1975 and 1979), Tom Sneva (1977), Rick Mears (1982) and Dixon (2013).

• A Team Penske driver has led the championship with two races to go in six of the last seven seasons. Those drivers are: Ryan Briscoe (2009), Power (2010, 2012 and 2014), Castroneves (2013) and Montoya (2015).

• The nine points that separate Montoya and Rahal is the fourth closest margin with two races to go since 2007. The 34 points between Montoya and third-place Dixon is the closest margin between first and third since 2009.

Indy car championship chases in the past decade with two races left:

2014 (INDYCAR) — Leader: Will Power (602 points); Second: Helio Castroneves (-39);Third: Simon Pagenaud (-92). Final margin and champion: 62 points, Power.

2013 (INDYCAR) — Leader: Helio Castroneves (513); Second: Scott Dixon (-8); Third:Simon Pagenaud (-50). Final margin and champion: 27 points, Dixon.

2012 (INDYCAR) — Leader: Will Power (422); Second: Ryan Hunter-Reay (-26); Third:Helio Castroneves (-41). Final margin and champion: 3 points, Hunter-Reay.

2011 (INDYCAR) — Leader: Dario Franchitti (507); Second: Will Power (-5); Third:Scott Dixon (-77). Final margin and champion: 18 points, Franchitti.

2010 (IRL) — Leader: Will Power (552); Second: Dario Franchitti (-17); Third: Scott Dixon (-83). Final margin and champion: 5 points, Franchitti.

2009 (IRL) — Leader: Ryan Briscoe (550); Second: Dario Franchitti (-25); Third: Scott Dixon (-33). Final margin and champion: 11 points, Franchitti.

2008 (IRL) — Leader: Scott Dixon (576); Second: Helio Castroneves (-43); Third: Dan Wheldon (-124). Final margin and champion: 17 points, Dixon.

2007 (IRL) — Leader: Scott Dixon (560); Second: Dario Franchitti (-4); Third: Tony Kanaan (-62). Final margin and champion: 13 points, Franchitti.

2007 (CCWS) — Leader: Sebastien Bourdais (301); Second: Justin Wilson (-58); Third:Robert Doornbos (-68). Final margin and champion: 63 points, Bourdais.

2006 (IRL) — Leader: Sam Hornish Jr. (418); Second: Helio Castroneves (-7); Third:Dan Wheldon (-24). Final margin and champion: Tie, Hornish and Wheldon; Hornish won championship by virtue of most race victories.

2006 (CCWS) — Leader: Sebastien Bourdais (338); Second: AJ Allmendinger (-58);Third: Justin Wilson (-69). Final margin and champion: 89 points, Bourdais.

2005 (IRL) — Leader: Dan Wheldon (570); Second: Tony Kanaan (-102); Third: Sam Hornish Jr. (-114). Final margin and champion: 80 points, Wheldon.

2005 (CCWS) — Leader: Sebastien Bourdais (310); Second: Oriol Servia (-67); Third:Paul Tracy (-94). Final margin and champion: 60 points, Bourdais.

3. Honda Celebrates 20th Anniversary of 1st Indy Car Win: Honda Performance Development celebrates the 20th anniversary of its first Indy car win this week. On Aug. 20, 1995, Andre Ribeiro drove his Honda-powered Tasman Motorsports Reynard to victory in the New England 200 at what is now called New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It marked an incredible turn of fortune for HPD, which failed to qualify a car for the 1994 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, then nearly won the ’95 Indy 500 with Scott Goodyear – until Goodyear was penalized for passing the pace car during a late caution period. Perseverance and hard work paid off with Ribeiro’s win, the first of what is now 216 and counting for Honda in Indy car competition.

“When I started with HPD, it was at the depths of our despair, if you will, as we just had not qualified for the (1994) Indy 500,” said Steve Eriksen, currently HPD’s COO and vice president who was a Honda associate at the time. “We set about resolving our issues and trying to be successful and, in fact, the next year rolled around and we were heading out to Surfers Paradise (Australia) and I’m not going because I’m with the test team and there was a test at Indy.

“I remember that test vividly because it was the first test that we ran over 230 mph around the track. We did it on a test day when there were no other competitors there and no public and we pulled the transponder out of the car because we didn’t want anyone knowing how fast we were going. We did our lap, videoed it and photographed it and came back to pit lane. That was sort of the defining moment that said, ‘We’ve done it, we made it.’

“The Ribeiro win was bound to happen,” Eriksen added. “We got the pole position in July (’95) at the Michigan 500 and I was (working) on Parker Johnstone’s car when he got the first pole position. You could see the power was there.”

Honda attained its 200th victory in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series race at Pocono Raceway, which hosts this weekend’s ABC Supply 500.

Since its inception in 1993, HPD – a wholly owned subsidiary of American Honda with headquarters in Santa Clarita, Calif. – has expanded its offerings and expertise. The aerodynamic bodywork platforms introduced to the Verizon IndyCar Series this season, tuned in conjunction with the 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engine, are an example.

“It’s a new era,” Eriksen said. “It’s interesting to look at the progress that we’ve made from what was a very narrow set of responsibilities in North American racing to such a broad range; the depth and breadth of what we do now is frankly incredible. It’s really gratifying to see that we’re able to spread the joy of racing that we feel at Honda to such a broad group.”

4. Foyt Will Miss Final Two Races of Season: Team owner and Indy car legend A.J. Foyt underwent surgery Aug. 10 for a staph infection in his right artificial knee and will be unable to attend the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway or the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 30.

The knee prosthesis was removed and, in its place, an antibiotic-infused cement spacer was inserted to aid in clearing up the infection. Once doctors are satisfied that the infection has cleared – expected to be about six weeks – Foyt will undergo another surgery to have a new artificial knee implanted. That surgery will require an additional six weeks of recovery time.

Foyt, whose 67 race wins as a driver are the most in Indy car history, suffered a similar infection in his left artificial knee in January 2012, but having been through it once doesn’t make it any easier.

“Well, this is one of the worst things I’ve gone through in my life,” Foyt said, “knowing I have five or six weeks dealing with this and then having to get operated on again to take the spacer out and put in a new knee. This staph infection, it’s the second time I’ve had it and it’s really beat me down. I don’t know if I’ll ever be like I used to be, but I’m sure hoping, so I’m fighting awful hard.”

5. Of Note: It was 106 years ago today that the first automobile race was held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. About 12,000 spectators watched Austrian engineer Louis Schwitzer win the 5-mile race on Aug. 19, 1909, with an average speed of 57.4 mph. … Tony Kanaan, who drives the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, will seek to complete the career triple crown for 500-mile races at Pocono. He won the 2013 Indianapolis 500 and the 2014 season finale at Auto Club Speedway. Kanaan, who also won the 1999 Indy car race at Michigan International Speedway, could become the first driver to win 500-mile races at four different superspeedways. Kanaan will also seek to extend his record streak of consecutive starts to 248. He is scheduled to reach 310 career Indy car starts – eighth all time – at the completion of the season. … Steak ‘n Shake has expanded its agreement with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing to include primary sponsorship of Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Honda in the final two races of the season, at Pocono Raceway and Sonoma Raceway. … Bryan Clauson, who competed in the Indy 500 for the second time this year, has been confirmed as an entry in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in 2016, again with Jonathan Byrd’s Racing.