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Daniel Ricciardo scores a surprise maiden victory in Montreal


Montreal, QC – In a shocking twist, the Canadian Grand Prix saw the blue colours of Infiniti Red Bull Racing take the checkered flag. If you thought this was a throwback to last year, think again. It wasn’t four-time defending driver’s champion Sebastian Vettel on the top step, but new Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo that would claim his first-ever Formula One victory in front of a cheering crowd.

In a race that had everything from crashes, teammates battling and reliability issues – Ricciardo charged ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez with four laps to go, eventually unseating Nico Rosberg of Mercedes in the penultimate lap. This was the first race of the year where a Mercedes driver didn’t finish on top.

The thrilling ending was set-up when both Mercedes cars started to show reliability issues around Lap 44. Problems only got worse for Mercedes when Lewis Hamilton went off track when his brakes failed while battling his teammate for first place. Hamilton would be forced to retire and all eyes were focused on Rosberg and his gap with the rest of the field. 

The closing field was led by Perez, Ricciardo, Vettel and Williams’ Felipe Massa. The group of five would battle until the end with Rosberg having to succumb to Ricciardo’s charge. The battling didn’t end there, as Massa tried to make a run at Perez for fourth place, but mistimed the pass hitting Perez on the left back tire launching both cars into the tires, barely missing Vettel that was just ahead.

After the crash, the safety car was deployed securing the victory for Ricciardo that was never in doubt after passing the Mercedes. Rosberg would finish second, followed by Vettel in third. 

“Still in a bit of shock,” Ricciardo said. “The race really came to life in the last 20 laps…when I set my sights on Nico [Rosberg] and I found myself in the right spot with the DRS.”

Rounding out the top-five were a few other surprises in McLaren’s Jenson Button and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg.  

Rosberg continues to lead the driver’s championship with 140 points, 22 ahead of teammate Hamilton. With the victory, Ricciardo moves into third place with 79 points. 

With a first and third place finish, Infiniti Red Bull Racing gained 22 points on Mercedes, but still sit a whopping 119 points behind. 

The 2014 edition of the Canadian Grand Prix was an exhilarating ride to the finish and Red Bull Racing can only hope their success continues at the fittingly-named Red Bull Ring that will host the Austrian Grand Prix on June 22nd. It might take another reliability issue to give the rest of the field another chance, but you never know, perhaps this is the beginning of a crack in Mercedes’ armour.

 

Nico Rosberg edges Lewis Hamilton for pole in Montreal

Montreal, QC – It was a bright sunny qualifying Saturday at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal. The place was abuzz with the earlier announcement of an agreement in principle that the Canadian Grand Prix would be staying in Montreal for the next 10 years into 2024. It was great news for the city and Formula One fans considering the doubt that loomed ahead of next year’s event. 

Politics aside, it was now time for qualifying. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg was the first to crack the 1:15 mark and ended with the best time of 1:14.874 that stood up over his-teammate Lewis Hamilton, who took second. This is Rosberg’s third pole position of the season, with the other four going to Hamilton. 

Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel, the defending driver’s champion and Canadian Grand Prix winner will start from the second row in third place. 

The Williams-duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa continued their impressive Saturday drives by placing fourth and fifth respectively. 

Rounding out the top-ten were: Vettel’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne, McLaren’s Jenson Button and the second Ferrari car of Kimi Raikkonen.

When both Mercedes drivers were asked whether any other competitor could race with them on Sunday, Rosberg and Hamilton differed in their answers. 

“I expect that's it going to be between the two of us for now...but I think we have enough of a gap at the moment on race pace,” Rosberg honestly replied.

Hamilton took a different approach stating: “I don't think it's just between the two of us...so we definitely cannot disregard Sebastian [Vettel] or Red Bull. I think we need to be very cautious, still, and make sure that we keep pushing.”  

Earlier rounds

Q1 would not see much surprise, but the session would be stopped with less than a minute to go after a spin and stop by Caterham rookie Marcus Ericsson. Outside of the usual bottom dwellers, Lotus’ Pastor Maldonaldo and Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez (crashed in final practice and went for a chassis change over competing in qualifying) didn’t make it to Q2. 

The second round of qualifying saw the usual Mercedes suspects of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg top the charts with times close to 1:15. Surprisingly McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen failed to qualify and will start P12 after registering the second quickest lap in P1 behind Hamilton.

In the end, we will once again see a Mercedes on pole for every race this calendar year, making it seven-in-a-row. Let’s see if any tension still exists when Rosberg and Hamilton battle it out tomorrow. The Canadian Grand Prix begins at 2:00pm ET.  

 

A chat with RBR’s Christian Horner ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix

With the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, I had the chance to join a roundtable discussion with the Team Principal from Infiniti Red Bull Racing, Christian Horner. 

It has been an atypical year for Horner and Infiniti Red Bull Racing currently sitting in second place in the Constructor’s championship, 141 points behind Mercedes. They’ve had it easy for the last four seasons winning four-consecutive constructor’s championships. It’s new territory for Horner with the team having to be the hunter, as opposed to being the hunted.

Horner doesn’t sugar coat the start of the year and realizes the team needs to make up a lot of ground. However, he does believe they’ve made tremendous strides over the last couple of months and will be working hard to improve on that in the coming races.

Horner faced some tough questions that centered on Red Bull’s Renault engines. He explained that they’re not going to be switching engines after the year, but seemed to give a warning to Renault that they better shape up.

“Renault put us on the back foot at the start of the year and they need to close those gaps,” Horner said. “It’s not good enough for them to be just a supplier; they [Renault] have to be good to be in Formula One.”

When you’re used to winning, the question of team morale is imperative when the chips are down. Horner shook off any notion of morale issues and believes his four-time driver’s champion Sebastian Vettel will come out even stronger after this rough start. 

Another bright spot with the team is the driver relationship between Vettel and Aussie Daniel Ricciardo.

“It’s a world of difference,” Horner said. “The drivers actually get along on and off the track and have a mutual respect for each other.” 

This is a big change from the heated tension that existed between Vettel and former Red Bull Racing driver Mark Webber. 

Infiniti Red Bull Racing will try to get their first win of the season at the Canadian Grand Prix, but it won’t be easy to get ahead of the Mercedes-duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who have once again been around the top of the charts for both Friday practice sessions.

 

Hunter-Reay edges Castroneves for his first Indy 500 victory

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Chants of "USA! USA!" followed Ryan Hunter-Reay as fans ecstatically celebrated the Indianapolis 500's first American winner in eight years.

They waved flags and roared their approval when, in Victory Lane, Hunter-Reay described himself as "a proud American."

"Being an American boy, I think when you look at maybe the NASCAR side of it, it's all Americans," Hunter-Reay said. "This is an international sport, open-wheel. We do battle on every different type of discipline, short ovals, street courses, the only series in the world like that. IndyCar Series is a true drivers' championship. That's what I love most about it."

On Sunday, Hunter-Reay earned his first Indy 500 by beating one of the very best in a thrilling finish to the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Hunter-Reay peeked around Helio Castroneves, then reversed course and dipped inside for a daredevil pass and the late lead. Castroneves charged back to the front, winning a drag race down the frontstretch at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And then, in a stirring wheel-to-wheel battle between a pair of bright yellow cars, Hunter-Reay seized the lead once more Sunday as the drivers hurtled toward the finish with a single, 2.5-mile lap remaining.

With nobody in front of him, Hunter-Reay used the entire track to keep Castroneves in his rearview mirror. He nipped him at the line by less than half a car length, denying his Brazilian rival a chance at history.

The finish was well worth the wait - to the fans who watched 150 laps of caution-free racing, to the drivers who bided their time unsure of when they should charge to the front and to Hunter-Reay, who finally got to drink the celebratory milk in his seventh try. He beat Castroneves by just 0.060 seconds - only the 1992 race had a closer finish when Al Unser Jr. beat Scott Goodyear by 0.043 seconds.

Castroneves, trying to become the fourth driver to win a fourth Indianapolis 500, settled for second. He said a caution with 10 laps to go broke his rhythm as the red flag came out so track workers could clean debris and repair a track wall.

"It was a great fight," he smiled. "I tell you what, I was having a great time. Unfortunately, second. It's good, but second sucks, you know what I mean?"

Marco Andretti finished third and Carlos Munoz was fourth as Andretti Autosport had three cars in the top four, as well as the winner.

Michael Andretti was thrilled to field the winning car, and his Andretti Autosport organization had four cars finish in the top six. That included Kurt Busch, who was sixth before leaving for the Coca-Cola 600 in North Carolina.

But as a father, Andretti had to balance his emotions to help son Marco deal with the disappointment of falling short in his ninth Indianapolis 500.

"It's a weird feeling because I really was disappointed for him," Michael Andretti said. "I know you only get that many shots. He had a car that was close, just not close enough. Yet I'm so happy and proud of the rest of the team. As a dad, disappointment. As a team owner, couldn't be happier. You have to try to balance those things."

 

Here are five other things that happened in the Indianapolis 500:

DIXON SPINS: Reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon made a rare mistake 33 laps from the finish, when he spun, lost control of his car and wrecked. It brought his race to an end and he finished 29th. He also "slapped my hand a little bit," when his car hit the wall.

"All of a sudden, it just started to slide midpack. I tried to catch it and there was no catching it," Dixon said. "I feel really bad for the guys. We had a pretty strong car all day."

RED FLAG RIGHT: Castroneves said that the red flag that flew with 10 laps left for Townsend Bell's wreck threw off his rhythm. He also acknowledged that it was the correct decision by race control. There was too much debris scattered across the track to clean it up quickly, and the red flag provided more green-flag laps to the finish - and a better show for the fans. "I believe it was the right decision, to be honest," Castroneves said. "It broke the rhythm, but it gave everybody a good, clean race. I think that was definitely the right choice."

RECORD-SETTING RACE: The 20 drivers on the lead lap at the end of the race set a record, breaking the mark of 19 set in 2009 and again last year. The 6,105 laps completed by the 33-car field also were a record, and Ryan Hunter-Reay's average winning speed of 186.563 mph was second only to Tony Kanaan's 187.433 last year. There were just 21 caution laps, matching the record for fewest since 1976, when yellow flags were first recorded.

VILLENEUVE'S RETURN: Jacques Villeneuve finished 14th in his return to the Indianapolis 500, the race he won in 1995. He struggled early with his car and lost a lap, but was able to get back on the lead lap during the four caution periods. He was impressed with the early pace of the race, which went caution free for 150 laps.

"After being away for 19 years, I was happy to be running quickly at the end," he said. "We ended on the lead lap and stayed away from the wall, so I think that's an acceptable result for being away for so long."

TOUGH DAY FOR TONY: Kanaan threw up his hands, shook his head in disbelief and rued the misfortune that ended his day early. The defending Indy 500 champion ran out of fuel during Sunday's race, leading to a lengthy pit stop because the starter was damaged on his car. He lost 18 laps during the repairs.

"Our day was pretty much over before it started," he said. "When you go that many laps down, you simply cannot recover. I always say this place chooses the winner and unfortunately today she didn't choose us."

Villeneuve primed for his return to the Indy 500 stage; Pagenaud eyeing an Indy sweep

It has been 19 years since Jacques Villeneuve departed IndyCar (then known as CART) for the high life of Formula One. He was coming off one of the best seasons a race driver could have, winning the Indy 500, known as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and taking home the driver’s championship. 

It wasn’t the worst move, as he won the Formula One driver’s championship in his second year at Williams, but things quickly went south after that, not registering another victory in his final nine seasons while driving for sub-par teams.

This Sunday, Villeneuve makes his return to IndyCar, piloting the No. 5 car for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports on his return to the Indy 500. Villeneuve struck a one-race deal, where he joins the teams’ full-time drivers Simon Pagenaud and Mikhail Aleshin.

 

As part of the Indy 500 media day, Pagenaud and Villeneuve travelled to Toronto and I had a chance to talk to both Schmidt Peterson Motorsports drivers. Pagenaud and Villeneuve might be teammates, but they have very different goals for the Indy 500. 

For Pagenaud, it’s a big race to net him some major points in order to stay in contention for the driver’s championship and prove he’s one of the best driver’s in the series. He currently sits in second position, following Indy 500 qualifying, where he will start in the middle of the second row, in fifth position. 

For Villeneuve, it’s a chance for him to rekindle his open-wheel greatness and test out whether he has something left to give against top racing talent. His goal is to get through some of the field without any incidents in order to provide himself a chance for a good run at the checkered flag.

Villeneuve is quite thrilled with the car and the team thus far. The adjustment to the new IndyCar after 19 years has surprisingly been easy. 

“The changes were not as big as expected,” explains Villeneuve. “The speed of the race cars are strangely similar to the ones back in the mid-90s, but you have to achieve those speeds in a different fashion with being flat on the gas for lots of periods during the race.”

When asked about the symbolism behind starting in 27th place, the number he drove for Team Green in 1995 when he won the Indy 500, as well as the number that his father, the late Gilles Villeneuve raced with, he surprisingly shrugged it off.

“I don’t understand why people associate my father with just the No. 27?” Villeneuve asked. “That’s the number he died racing in, but it was the No. 12 car that he had the most success in.”

It was an interesting look into the man who always speaks his mind. When reflecting back on his rookie year for Forsythe/Green Racing, he did wear the No. 12, and of course in Formula One, you used to not be able to choose your own number.

At the age of 43, Villeneuve will be trying to turn back the clock and use his fearless attitude and winning spirit at the track. If you’re patriotically cheering for a Canadian, Villeneuve might be the one with the most connections, as his co-owner Ric Peterson is a Calgary native, and crew member Tim Neff hails from north of the border.

Pagenaud will try to be the king of Indianapolis after scoring a victory in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, earlier this month. Pagenaud feels the car’s set-up is strong and they have the right package for the Indy 500. He understands that it’s those fine details that can make the difference, and his love for ovals provides him the perfect challenge.

Tune into ABC’s coverage of the Indy 500 this Sunday, May 25th at 12pm ET. Ed Carpenter will start on pole alongside Canadian James Hinchcliffe and Will Power. If you want to follow the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team, Pagenaud starts fifth, rookie Aleshin starts 15th and Villeneuve goes out 27th.

 

Carpenter wins Indy 500 pole for 2nd straight year


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Ed Carpenter has turned Indianapolis Motor Speedway into quite the home track advantage.

Carpenter graduated from Butler, roots for the Indiana Pacers, and has an unabashed love for "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing." But the stepson of IndyCar founder Tony George is leaving his own imprint on the Indy sports scene each May.

Carpenter took back-to-back pole victories, posting a four-lap average of 231.067 mph Sunday to take the top spot in the 500 for the second straight year.

"I felt that it was harder," Carpenter said. "It was just a different position because when I made my run last year, we didn't really have anything to lose. This year, being the last guy to go out, I think there was a little bit of pressure to not mess it up."

Carpenter's No. 20 Chevrolet was the car to beat all weekend, and the hometown favorite showed no signs of rust in his first IndyCar Series race of the season. He owns Ed Carpenter Racing and decided in November to run only on ovals, where he excels. He turned his car over to Mike Conway on road and street courses, and skipped the first four races of the season.

In an event steeped in tradition, Carpenter added his own by becoming the 11th driver to win consecutive poles.

"The month of May is fun," he said. "I wouldn't want to rush through and miss the parade, drivers meeting, and autograph sessions."

Carpenter was the last of nine qualifiers to hit the track and bumped James Hinchcliffe from the top spot. Hinchcliffe will start second after sustaining a concussion last weekend in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Will Power will join them on the front row.

Three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves was fourth, followed by Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti. Carlos Munoz, Josef Newgarden and J.R. Hildebrand will be on the third row.

Carpenter was 10th in last year's Indy 500.

"It's all about the race," the 33-year-old Carpenter said. "Hopefully, we can close the deal this year."

 

Hinchcliffe cleared to resume racing for Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- James Hinchcliffe has a bruise on the bridge of his nose, a black-and-blue reminder of his big wreck.

He can hide it with the helmet he'll need now that he's back in the race car.

Hinchcliffe was cleared to drive Thursday by IndyCar's medical team following a concussion Saturday in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

He passed the post-concussion tests and should be all set to qualify this weekend for the Indianapolis 500. He couldn't wait another day, hopping in the No. 27 Honda with 2 minutes left in practice to turn his first lap of the month on the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"I went overkill on resting because I really wanted to get back out here," he said. "I think a big part of it was my nose is so big it absorbed a lot of the impact and it left my head relatively unscathed."

He can laugh about it now, but it wasn't so funny Saturday when debris from Justin Wilson's car flew into the cockpit, striking Hinchcliffe in the head. He was taken away from the track on a stretcher, transported to a hospital and diagnosed with a concussion.

"Luckily, I don't remember most of it," he said. "It's a scary situation any time an injury like that happens."

Hinchcliffe suddenly pulled off the road course at IMS following a restart and could be seen holding his head with both hands as he exited his car.

"Everybody's been giving a lot of credit for the heads up decision to pull off, but that must have been a subconscious thing because I have no memory of that," he said. "I guess I was very lucky to come in time to not get into the wall there."

Series officials said concussions are handled on a case-by-case basis and that drivers with head injuries must pass an ImPACT test before they're cleared to compete by series medical director Dr. Michael Olinger.

The 27-year old Canadian passed his after doing nothing more this week than some light training. He woke up Sunday with a headache but said he was fine by Monday. He was back in the gym Wednesday and ready to resume racing for Andretti Autosport.

"I went overkill on the rest," he said. "Everything that they asked me to do I did, and then some. I've been wearing my sunglasses for like 96 straight hours, staying away from all electronics. Anything they asked me to do I went overkill because I knew the goal was to get back and I really wanted to qualify this car, and it looks like I'm going to be able to do that now."

E.J. Viso replaced Hinchcliffe in practice this week and got a double dose of bad news: He was out of work and the engine in the No. 27 Honda blew during Thursday's practice.

"I really expect that the help, effort and input I gave during these past few days are going to reflect in a good way in the coming days and during the Indy 500," Viso said. "I feel really proud to be able to help Andretti Autosport and I hope to be driving with them again sometime in the future."

 

 

Hamlin claims his first Talladega win


TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) -- Denny Hamlin started his full-time career at Joe Gibbs Racing with an upset victory in an exhibition race at Daytona. Over the years, he added three more wins in races that didn't count, including a sweep this season in the buildup to the Daytona 500.

But when it came to the restrictor-plate races that paid points, Hamlin came up empty time and again.

Until now.

Hamlin, who opened the season with two exhibition victories only to finish second in the Daytona 500, was again sitting second in the closing laps Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. But he won a drag race with leader Kevin Harvick on a restart with two laps remaining, and was out front when NASCAR froze the field because of debris from an accident.

Hamlin let out a deep sigh when the yellow flag waved.

"Superspeedway win," he said on his radio. "With points! With points!"

"I think I've gotten better. I've come close. When you drive as aggressive as I drove early in my career on superspeedways, you're going to have a huge risk, huge reward," he said after the win. "I was either wrecking or finishing in the top three every single superspeedway race and was wrecking most of the time. I think this way of driving and the way I'm doing things now kind of lends itself to being a little bit more consistent on these type of race tracks, and really you learn from the guys that are good at it."

Hamlin became the eighth winner in 10 races this season as drivers jockey to grab the 16 spots available in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. A victory conceivably gives a driver an automatic berth, and Joe Gibbs Racing now has both Hamlin and Kyle Busch eligible for the Chase.

"I wasn't ever worried, but you get a little bit more panicked when it's, `Win a race and you're in Chase,' " he said. "You see all these guys logging wins, wins, wins, and the next thing you know they're running out of Chase spots. Now we can be a little bit more relaxed."

The win came at the track where Hamlin made a brief return last year - he ran just 23 laps before turning his car over to Brian Vickers - after missing four races with a broken back. Hamlin's return to the car briefly built some momentum for the No. 11 team, but as his back continued to ache, the season fell apart in late summer and it took until the season finale for Hamlin to score his first win of the year. He also missed the Chase for the first time in his career.

It didn't appear that Hamlin had enough to beat Harvick, already a two-time winner this season, until the final restart. Harvick didn't get the help he needed from behind, was hung out without any drafting partners, and Hamlin pulled out to a comfortable lead.

"We were in a good spot there at the end, and what you would want to put yourself in a position to win," Harvick said. "Our line just never formed up."

As Hamlin pulled away, an accident deep in the pack scattered debris, and NASCAR was forced to throw the caution when a bumper was seen laying on the surface.

The yellow prevented Greg Biffle, who led five times for a race-high 58 laps, from pulling out of line in an attempt to grab the victory away from Hamlin.

"I just didn't want to pass too early. I was going to be the lone soldier on the outside lane," Biffle said. "So I was just waiting. I was setting up to go by him but just never had the chance."

Clint Bowyer finished third and was followed by Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Brian Vickers as Toyota took the victory and three of the top four spots.

AJ Allmendinger finished fifth in a Chevrolet, followed by Paul Menard and then Harvick, who faded to seventh. Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top 10.

Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished a disappointing 26th despite leading three times for 26 laps, second most in the race.

Danica Patrick led two times for six laps, and the crowd roared its approval when she drove to the front early in the race. She finished 22nd.

"It was nice to lead laps," she said. "It was a fast, fast car so we'll be happy to take this one to Daytona."

It was a rough day for Brad Keselowski, a two-time Talladega winner, who darted to the lead on Lap 14 but appeared to not have cleared Patrick before squeezing in front of her car. She tapped the back of Keselowski's car, sending him for a spin through the grass that caused enough damage to drop him six laps off the pace.

"We weren't clear enough to make that," crew chief Paul Wolfe told his driver. "I'll just call it at that: We weren't clear enough to make that move."

Keselowski raced in the heart of the pack after the first incident in an attempt to get his laps back under caution periods. But he was heavily criticized for triggering a 14-car accident with 51 laps remaining. The accident began when Keselowski spun in front of Trevor Bayne, and among those collected were Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson.

"Brad made a pretty bold move early, a mind-boggling move, in going in front of Danica and spun out in front of the field and got away with it," Kenseth said. "This time we weren't so lucky. He was driving really, really, really aggressively to try to get back up there.

"If it was the other way around and it was anybody else except for him, we'd all be getting lectured."

Gordon also chastised Keselowski.

"I had seen him for several laps driving over his head being pretty aggressive," Gordon said. "I knew he was laps down, but he wasn't doing anybody any favors, nor himself."

Keselowski took the blame for the late accident.

"I just spun out in front of the whole field," he said. "I don't know why, if I just busted my butt on my own or lost a tire, but I feel bad for everyone that got torn up."

Montoya to race in a few Sprint Cup races for Team Penske

If going back to IndyCar wasn’t tough enough, Juan Pablo Montoya has now signed on to race in two NASCAR races in the Sprint Cup Series for Team Penske. 

Montoya will drive the No. 12 Team Racing Ford Fusion starting on June 15th at the Michigan International Speedway for the Quicken Loans 400, and then again on July 27th at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Crown Royal 400, mostly known to all as the Brickyard 400.

After eight seasons of affiliation with Chip Ganassi Racing in NASCAR, this time Montoya has a chance to claim the Brickyard 400 for Team Penske, where he has fared well in the past. 

"Juan is a proven winner in multiple racing disciplines and he is one of the most versatile race car drivers competing today," said Roger Penske. "Michigan and Indianapolis are two important races for Team Penske. We know Juan has the ability to race for wins in both of those events."

Montoya will have Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano as teammates for both races. 

Currently in IndyCar, Montoya sits 11th in the driver’s championship after three races with his best finish coming at Long Beach, just missing a podium finish and taking fourth place. Both of these races will not conflict with his IndyCar schedule, as they are set to go during IndyCar off-weeks.

 

Hunter-Reay, Andretti get 1-2 finish for Andretti Autosport

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Will Power said he came in expecting to be chasing the Andretti Autosport drivers around Barber Motorsports Park.

Turns out that's exactly what happened with Ryan Hunter-Reay winning his second straight Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday and Andretti teammate Marco Andretti taking the No. 2 spot on the permanent road course. The race finished under caution, leaving the two Andretti drivers to lead the pack to the finish line.

"To do it in that style where at the end of the race we were pulling away was thrilling," said Hunter-Reay, who picked up his 12th IndyCar win.

It was well worth the wait after his Long Beach race ended badly two weeks ago. Not to mention a 2-hour, 26-minute rain delay that left a timed race going 69 laps instead of the scheduled 90.

The last four were under caution after rookie Mikhail Aleshin lost control and went off the track. The results left the 2012 Alabama race where neither Hunter-Reay nor Andretti finished in the top 10 well back in the rear view mirror.

"It was a huge race for us," Hunter-Reay said. "This track used to be one of our weakest points, so to come here and put an Andretti 1-2 up is pretty impressive. And it's a total team effort. Everybody's been working really hard together to move in the same direction. It's been a very strong start to this season for this team overall."

Hunter-Reay's aggressive attempt to pass Josef Newgarden at Long Beach led to a collision that caught up seven cars.

At Barber, Scott Dixon was third, followed by Simon Pagenaud and Power, a two-time winner at Barber who made his statement about the Andretti team after capturing the pole.

TIMED RACE: Dixon and Andretti, at least, weren't fans of timing the race, which was limited to 1 hour, 40 minutes after the delay.

"The race should be the full distance," Dixon said. "To have to shorten these races for TV, you know, I understand the difficult predicament that everybody is in, but these are championship races. They all pay the same amount of points.

"You decide to take 30 laps off them ... I think it changes strategy a lot and you're constantly chasing that window. Then ultimately you finish on a caution, too, which is also a bit of a bummer for the fans. In the future, hopefully we can find a way around that."

Andretti's response: "I don't think I could have said it much better."

CHARLOTTE'S WEB: Power had a slight but costly misjudgment in the tight Turn 5, which is dubbed Charlotte's Web because of the huge spider sculpture at the spot.

"I kept creeping my braking point a little bit further and further, and I went too far," Power said. "It's tough to not push past the limits with wet patches everywhere. We really didn't have the pace in the dry anyway, but that sure didn't help our cause when I went off course."

Hunter-Reay said there's no margin for error on that turn.

"It was a very fine line between getting it all right or getting it all wrong," he said. "Any guy that's been in an IndyCar on the Web will tell you that's how it is. You've got to go up the risk side to the get the reward out of it, but it's really easy to throw it all away."

ROOKIE PROBLEMS: Aleshin was left to walk back to pit road while the rest of the field finished and was second to last. Earlier Sebastien Bourdais had spun the Russian from behind, leaving him stalled. Bourdais received a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.

Fellow rookie Carlos Munoz's race ended after 29 laps because of mechanical problems.

NO BRIDESMAID: Dixon had finished each of the first four Barber races in second place, but dropped one spot this time.

"We went the wrong way, but it was an interesting day," he said.

PENSKE: Team Penske's Power and Helio Castroneves had won the first three races at Barber. Power started from the pole for the third time Sunday.

That left his fifth-place finish a subpar performance for him on the road course. Castroneves, meanwhile, received a stop-and-go penalty for stopping in the wrong pit and finished 19th, 13 spots behind where he started.

Dixon grumbled about Castroneves getting only a warning after jumping on an early restart.

He said that "seems to be typical of him, which is frustrating because he doesn't seem to get a penalty for it."

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