SONOMA, CALIFORNIA – The season did not end that well for The Captain. Roger Penske was close to making history Sunday hoping to be the first team owner to win the NASCAR Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar championship. With his three IndyCar drivers all eligible for the Championship, including Montoya with a 77 point lead, it seemed to be a sure-thing. But in racing, as in football, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
Mr. Penske had a bit of simple advice to Juan Pablo, “One thing I’ve said to Juan – he’s run a great season, he’s been tough and he’s been competitive and he needs to bring the same playbook here on Sunday.” Unfortunately, Montoya was not able to heed the advice and ended up colliding with teammate Will Power on a restart on lap 39 sending both into the garage. After Montoya took on a new front wing assembly the Montoya and Power dropped to 23rd and 22nd.
Scott Dixon running in ninth place at the time of the incident saw the opportunity afforded by the Penske mishap, turned on the juice and took the lead on lap 51, in the 85-lap race. Dixon came into the weekend mourning the loss of his dear friend Justin Wilson, but focused. “This is what we came here for this weekend,” Dixon said. “It was a long shot but we knew we had shot at it. All of us this week raced with heavy hearts. Justin Wilson and everyone in his family are in our thoughts. He is such a great guy and that made it hard this week.”
What did Montoya have to say? “We had a good car. We had a good start and, you know, we did everything we needed to do at the beginning,” he said. “Will overshot and I was fighting with Newgarden, we shot the corner, we got inside and Will cut across and I was there, and we touched and that was it. We came from behind and did our best, just wasn't enough. It's tough there, tires are going off, and it's one of those days. As I told you, it could happen, and it happened. It sucks, but when you make double points the last race in a road course and you change the tire and you do everything you did for this weekend and you put so many variables, it doesn't even matter what you do all year.”
Penske lamented “These guys were racing. It was an accident. It looked like Juan wanted to get inside and Will didn’t see him. At the end of the day it’s over and we move on. We had a great season.” At least that was what he said publicly…