SONOMA, California – Team Penske driver Juan Pablo Montoya is the only driver in the field for Sunday’s Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma Verizon IndyCar Series race that is a former winner at Sonoma Raceway, but in a much different race car.
Montoya scored his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Sonoma in 2007 when he won the Toyota/Save Mart 350. It was one of only two wins Montoya had in NASCAR’s top series as he makes his IndyCar Series debut at the 12-turn, 2.385-mile road course on Sunday.
Montoya starts 19th in Sunday’s 22-car field after he was penalized in Saturday’s qualifications when INDYCAR Officials ruled he drove through the line in Turn 11 on one of his laps. Turn 11 is supposed to be treated as if it’s a wall, and any time the tires touch the line or go over it, INDYCAR officials can call it a penalty.
Montoya was livid about the call.
“I touched the line at the beginning and wasn’t over the line and didn’t use anything,” Montoya said. “They just want to make the calls when they want to make the calls. It’s typical here. Everything is always convenient to them. I was braking but because I touched the line they penalized me. I’m not even outside the track.
“It was very IndyCar-like … the inconsistency here is crazy.”
That put a negative spin on Montoya’s return to Sonoma Raceway – a place that should hold an impressive place in his list of accomplishments. But to the driver at Team Penske, it’s a much different challenge.
“It’s not even funny it’s so different,” Montoya said. “The G forces, the corner speed – there is really no point of comparison. I don’t want to be disrespectful but it’s going karting in a rental or a shifter kart. I never liked this place in a stock car. Watkins Glen wasn’t so bad because you could hustle the car and it felt good. But here it was so easy and so slow anybody could do it. You didn’t have to be a road course racer to do well here.”
Montoya said at Sonoma the cars aren’t going fast enough in NASCAR because all the open room allows a driver to run off course and get back onto the track without usually hitting anything.
“I had more sentimental appeal for this place when I did my Skip Barber Driving School,” Montoya said.
Although Montoya was not impressed with Sonoma Raceway in a stock car, he expects to be impressed by the racing in an IndyCar on Sunday.
“Track position is important and you have to have a good car,” he said. “We’ve been struggling; to be honest. We were missing a little bit in practice and then the penalty in qualifying.
“The big key for us is to leave here as a team where nobody but Will Power or Helio Castroneves can win the championship.”
Be sure to catch Bruce Martin’s Honda IndyCar Report on RACEDAY on FOX Sports Radio every Sunday from 6-8 a.m. ET.