Montoya earns first victory since return to IndyCar series

  • Article by: DAN GLESTON , Associated Press
  • Updated: July 6, 2014 - 11:26 PM

The veteran driver from Colombia tamed the Pocono track for his first major victory since 2010.

– Juan Pablo Montoya noticed the Colombian fans waving flags and wildly cheering for him as he zipped toward the checkered flag. Moments after celebrating, Montoya ducked his way through the crowd waiting at Victory Lane and headed toward the grandstands to sign autographs and pose for pictures.

“I had to say thanks for coming,” he said.

Montoya saved his deepest gratitude for car owner Roger Penske.

Montoya won the IndyCar race Sunday at Pocono Raceway, the highlight of a triumphant return to open-wheel racing after seven years in NASCAR.

Up ahead, a serious run at the IndyCar championship.

“I think people know I’m coming,” Montoya said.

Montoya won for the first time in the CART/IndyCar Series since 2000 and had his first major victory since he won a road-course race at Watkins Glen in NASCAR in 2010.

Penske’s faith in bringing the talented and tempestuous Montoya aboard was rewarded.

“It’s been a long road, a lot harder than people realize,” Montoya said.

Helio Castroneves was second to make it a 1-2 finish Sunday for Team Penske. With double points awarded in the 500-mile races, Castroneves moved into a tie for the points lead with Team Penske teammate Will Power.

Team Penske did face some roadblocks that could lead to some interesting conversations this week at the shop. Power was hit with a blocking penalty on Castroneves late in the race and had to serve a drive through penalty, costing him a shot at racing for the win. He finished 10th.

Carlos Munoz, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon completed the top five.

Montoya, who won from the pole, took the lead for good when Tony Kanaan was forced to pit for fuel with four laps left. Montoya took it from there and continued to stamp himself a player in the championship hunt. He moved to fourth in the standings.

“As soon as we signed him, I knew he would be an asset for us, and a headache,” Castroneves said.

Montoya damaged his front wing when he connected with Power on a pass for the lead on the 167th lap. Power’s penalty troubles continued at Pocono when he blocked Castroneves on the 171st lap, effectively ending his shot at victory.

“You tell them, ‘Let’s keep each other on the track,’ ” Penske said. “But that was a little tight right there.”

Power said he tried to let Castroneves go and had no intention of blocking him. Power has been smacked with a rash of penalties this season, ranging from pit speed violations to contact with other drivers.

“I’ve got to stop it,” he said. “I’ve got to stop getting drive-throughs.”

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