Mar 17, 2014, 8:13 PM EDT
Cold, damp conditions may have robbed him (and the other Verizon IndyCar Series competitors) of track time this morning at Barber Motorsports Park, but Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya still made the most of things in the afternoon.
The former Indianapolis 500 and CART champion, returning to open-wheel this season after a seven-year run in NASCAR, logged 55 laps in the first day of the series’ Open Test on the 2.3-mile Alabama circuit and turned in the second-fastest time (1:07.6492) in the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet.
That time was only .0678 of a second off of teammate and Monday leader Will Power. And while he not ready to deem himself perfect ahead of the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 30, he believes he’s making progress.
“Just trying to get better and figure out new tires a little bit,” the Colombian said during the session. “I’m trying to learn how to get more out of the car and we’re getting there.
“It was good today, but there’s a couple of places that I need to do a little better job and be a little cleaner. But we’re getting there.”
For his part, Power is convinced that Montoya will be a force right out of the gate in St. Petersburg.
“Collectively as a team, we try to improve the car and learn from each other, but when it comes to racing, the better guy is going to be winning,” Power said. “It’s competition; it’s just how it is.
“This series, he could win the first race quite easily. I expect him to definitely drive to the front everywhere, so if you’re at the front knocking on the door, eventually you’re going to get a win.”
Scott Dixon won his first Verizon IndyCar Series title in 2003. He finished 10th in the standings in 2004, hampered by a down-on-power Toyota engine.
He then won his second series title in 2008. But despite leading the standings going into the 2009 season finale, he wound up runner-up to then-teammate Dario Franchitti.
Now, Dixon enters this season coming off of his third IndyCar crown. So, will the third time be the charm regarding a successful title defense?
Time will tell, but as he said today at Barber, the matter of holding on to the championship is “a good problem to have.”
“I’ve been in this situation a couple of times before and we actually haven’t defended it that well,” said Dixon, who was fourth-fastest on Monday. “In ’09, we had a close shot and nearly won another championship. We will just have to sort of see how it goes.
“For us in the past, when we have come close to another three championships, I think it’s always been the start of the year that has kind of hindered us. I think we need to focus on making a good start in the first three or four races.”
Teams are, of course, getting ready for the season opener in a few weeks at St. Petersburg. But they’re also preparing for when the Verizon IndyCar Series returns to Barber for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Apr. 27 (which you can see on NBCSN).
The race will serve as the third round of the 2014 championship, and for the next two days at Barber, Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe is making sure to keep tabs on his tires as he zips around the technically challenging track.
“With the treatment that was done to the track last year with some grinding, it improved lap times but it also took a toll on the tires, so you need some sort of compromise,” said Hinchcliffe, who was ninth-quickest on Monday.
Finding a happy medium is also important at Barber in regards to car set-up.
“The other big compromise at this track is setup-wise – the low-speed corners, you’ll be dealing with a lot of under-steer and [in] some of the other corners, the rear slides out,” he said. “So you want a nice, stable rear and a well-connected front.”
Aug 31, 2014, 4:00 AM EDT
Will Power’s brother Damien provides raucous, hilarious commentary as Will drove towards the Verizon IndyCar Series title.
Aug 31, 2014, 3:00 AM EDT
They rallied to claim Top-5 finishes in Saturday’s IndyCar season finale, but Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe were left wanting more.
Aug 31, 2014, 2:35 AM EDT
Simon Pagenaud reveals a possible, potential hint on his future after a forgettable and largely frustrating Fontana finale.
Aug 31, 2014, 1:59 AM EDT
Tony Kanaan gets on the board to cap off a second half of the 2014 season where he came close to winning several times, and finally broke through.
Aug 31, 2014, 1:21 AM EDT
The three-time Indy 500 champion contends at Fontana, but a pit entry violation going into his final stop ends his bid for a championship.
Aug 31, 2014, 12:54 AM EDT
Will Power has, at long last, become a Verizon IndyCar Series champion. Meanwhile Tony Kanaan takes the win in Auto Club Speedway finale.
Aug 30, 2014, 11:33 PM EDT
The Indy 500 champ is threatening to win another 500-miler in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Aug 30, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
HAMPTON, Ga. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined the chorus of voices welcoming Tony Stewart back to racing this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Aug 30, 2014, 10:15 PM EDT
HAMPTON, Ga. – Kevin Harvick made it look more than easy en route to victory in Saturday’s Great Clips 300 to Benefit Feed The Children at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Harvick dominated the event, leading 159 of the event’s 195 laps in his third career NNS win at the high-speed 1.5-mile track.
Aug 30, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
It all comes down to this. Get your NBC Sports Live Extra stream links for tonight’s MAVTV 500 – the 2014 season finale for the Verizon IndyCar Series!
Aug 30, 2014, 7:48 PM EDT
Mikhail Aleshin still in hospital but in stable condition after accident Friday night at Auto Club Speedway.
Aug 30, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
The open-wheel veteran turns in a final-round lap of 109.889 mph around Canadian Tire Motorsports Park to claim pole for Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250.
Aug 30, 2014, 7:08 PM EDT
HAMPTON, Ga. – Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano put the Happy in Happy Hour Saturday evening at Atlanta Motor Speedway, setting the top speeds in the final tuneup for Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500.
Aug 30, 2014, 5:56 PM EDT
HAMPTON, Ga. – Chase Elliott has won three races thus far in his rookie season on the NASCAR Nationwide Series circuit. But the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott has never won a pole position in the NNS – until Saturday.
Aug 30, 2014, 5:24 PM EDT
This may be the strangest place we’ve seen Earnhardt’s iconic No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet in a long time.
Aug 30, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT
HAMPTON, Ga. — Johnny Morris, president of Bass Pro Shops and one of the primary sponsors of Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet, released a statement of support for his close friend on Saturday.
Aug 30, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Out of all the Chase-bound drivers, “Rowdy” may be the one in most need of a good performance at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend.
Aug 30, 2014, 4:14 PM EDT
HAMPTON, Ga. — When you’re hot, you’re hot: Bristol winner Joey Logano and pole sitter Kevin Harvick were the fastest drivers in Saturday’s final Sprint Cup practice in preparation for Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Lessons learned from Dale Earnhardt death readily seen in way NASCAR has dealt with Tony Stewart tragedy
Aug 30, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT
While the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy occurred outside of its jurisdiction, it wasn’t the first time NASCAR has had to deal with tragedy and subsequent changes to the sport. One need look back no further than the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001 for the resulting lessons that NASCAR learned from.
Aug 30, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
However, Dillon isn’t neglecting his push for the championship in the Nationwide Series, which competes tonight at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Video from NASCAR America
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