Many in the IndyCar garage have been curious to see whether Juan Pablo Montoya could still race with the same championship-winning pace as he had in the series 14 years ago, and Sunday’s result was certainly a positive sign that things are heading in the right direction.
With his fourth place finish at Long Beach, Montoya sits eighth in the IndyCar points standings as the series heads to Barber Motorsports Park.
Since retiring from the sport in 2000, Montoya has ventured into the worlds of Formula 1, NASCAR and the GRAND-Am Sports car series.
The Columbian had a successful career in the former, winning seven Formula 1 races during his time there.
From 2007 to 2013, Montoya competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. He failed to win at an oval race, despite coming close in the 2009 race at Indianapolis and in the 2013 spring race at Richmond.
Yet Montoya was always regarded as a threat for the win at road courses, and was able to do so two times.
However, after qualifying 18th and finishing 14th at St. Petersburg, speculation emerged as to whether Montoya had indeed lost that magic touch behind an IndyCar wheel.
Fortunately for his fans, those speculations were largely crushed after Long Beach. Though he qualified 16th, Montoya was able to work his way up from 20th, after being forced to pit for fuel while the pits were closed towards the start of the race, all the way up to fourth place where he finished.
“That was an interesting race. What an amazing team and I really have to thank Verizon and Chevy,” said Montoya. “I could’ve been a little more aggressive at the end but I really wanted to make sure we didn’t get in any trouble and got a decent finish in the Verizon car.
“We had some close calls out there but we kept pushing and to come out of Long Beach with a top-five finish is pretty good.”
The Long Beach race was full of attrition, including a seven-car incident that took out the three leaders. This leaves one to wonder whether Montoya’s solid finish was a one-off, or if it truly is a sign that the Columbian is still on pace.
Perhaps the next race at Barber Motorsports Park on April 27 will give us a clearer indication.