Montoya triumphs in record-setting Pocono 500
7 July 2014 – Team Penske's Juan Pablo Montoya crossed the finish line on Sunday afternoon and broke several streaks in the process. For one, it had been over 13 years since the Colombian last won an IndyCar event, but after a record-setting pace at the second leg of IndyCar's Triple Crown, the 38-year-old Montoya also became the first polesitter to win a Verizon IndyCar Series race this year.
The eighth winner in eleven events, Montoya was also the eighth polesitter this season after breaking track records in qualifying for single-lap speed and two-lap average speed (at over 223mph). It was only appropriate that this race – the Pocono IndyCar 500 – would also go down as the fastest 500-mile race in IndyCar history (beating Jimmy Vasser's 197.995mph winning pace twelve years ago at California Speedway), being the only event of such a length to have an average speed above 200mph. Distance aside, though, this would still go down as the third-fastest IndyCar race ever.
This speed was achieved in part due to a single caution period interrupting the proceedings, courtesy of a brush with the wall by Graham Rahal on lap 159. This, too, was a record for the longest opening green flag stretch of any 500-mile IndyCar race. The caution lasted for six laps before staying green until the end.
Penske teammate Helio Castroneves finished 2.3s behind Montoya, and because of the double points awarded in the event, he moves into a tie for the lead in the championship standings with Will Power. Power, another Penske driver, ran a strong race until it all unraveled in the final few laps.
After leading 69 laps, he made contact with Montoya on the 167th lap, damaging the Colombian's wing and losing momentum in the process. Just four laps later, as Castroneves was charging his way toward the lead, Power was penalized for blocking the Brazilian, earning the Aussie a drive-through penalty. Between this and a late fuel stop on lap 189, he would finish P10.
Fuel would also prove to be an issue for the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan. The Chip Ganassi driver led a total of 78 laps on the evening – more than anyone else – but an unfortunate fuel strategy meant that his car needed one more splash of petrol to make it to the end. Staying out until the last possible moment, Kanaan was forced to pit with just three laps remaining, thus giving the lead to Montoya. The Brazilian would also reach a milestone, though, leading laps for the 100th race in his long career. He would still manage to come home in P11.
Rookie Carlos Munoz, always a strong contender at 500-mile events, finished on the final step of the podium ahead of Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon, who won the last IndyCar event at Pocono in 2013.
Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay was in the hunt for the Triple Crown of 500-mile races, but his car did not complete 30 laps before he was forced to retire temporarily with suspension problems. After repairs, he would go on to complete 181 laps, good enough for P18.
Simon Pagenaud, Mikhail Aleshin, Josef Newgarden, Marco Andretti and Power rounded out the top 10.
For Montoya, though, the win served to justify his return to North America's premier open wheel series. After spending time in Formula 1 and NASCAR, the Colombian was signed by Roger Penske before the 2014 season following the ending of his contract with NASCAR's Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
Since his return, increasingly strong finishes culminated Sunday in his 12th IndyCar victory, albeit 13 years after his last one. That makes him only the third driver since 1909 to go greater than 10 years between wins. It also makes him the only current driver to have won three separate 500-mile races.