Helio Castroneves: I’m focused on bringing the car home as best I can and the championship will figure itself out.
Juan Pablo Montoya - No. 2 Hawk Performance Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
• He's back: Juan Pablo Montoya was 23 years old when he took the checkered flag at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 1999. It marked his fifth victory in his debut season in the CART Series. He went on to become the youngest champion in series history at 24 years of age.
• Steady improvement: Montoya has improved his pace consistently throughout the season. After starting the season with an average finishing position of 12.3 over the first seven races, Montoya has improved his average result to 9.4 in the last seven events, despite some misfortune that caused him to finish outside of the top 15 in the last three races.
• Still in the top five: Montoya still maintains the fifth position in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings. He is 105 points behind his teammate and championship leader Helio Castroneves. With four races remaining in the season, Montoya is still very much a championship contender.
• Moonlighting in cup: While the Verizon IndyCar Series enjoyed a rare off weekend to prepare for the stretch run to the season finale, Montoya made his second NASCAR Cup Series start of the year last weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After beginning the race from the eighth position and making it to the final round of qualifying on Saturday afternoon, he finished the Brickyard 400 in the 23rd position for Team Penske.
• Back with hawk at Mid-Ohio: Hawk Performance made its debut two weeks ago in Toronto as a primary sponsor of the No. 2 Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. Hawk’s parent company, Carlisle Companies, has been a Team Penske partner since 2011. Hawk will once again serve as the primary sponsor of Montoya’s No. 2 Team Penske Chevy at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
You won at Mid-Ohio in your rookie year in 1999. What was that like and how are you preparing for this year’s race?
“Wow, it’s been a long time since my rookie season! The series is so much different these days – and still so competitive I do remember winning that race at Mid-Ohio, so I have a good idea of the feel I am looking for to run well. The test there last week gave us a good opportunity to fine-tune that. We’ve had good pace lately, even though the results don’t necessarily show how good our No. 2 Hawk Performance Chevys have been. It’s exciting to be this close to the end of the season and still be right there in the hunt for the championship. We are going to give it our best shot and see what happens.”
You are 105 points behind Castroneves in the standings, how do you feel about your position in the 2014 championship?
“First, I think it’s fantastic that we have all three Team Penske cars in the top five. The team has done such a great job this year building fast race cars. We are consistently quick everywhere we go. The thing about the Verizon IndyCar Series season is that our last race of the year is a 500-mile, double-points race. That means a lot of teams are still eligible for the championship and will be right down to the wire. There is a lot of racing – with a lot of points – left to go in the year.”
Helio Castroneves - No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
• CLIMBING THE PODIUM: Helio Castroneves claimed his sixth podium of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season by finishing second in the first race on the streets of Toronto two weeks ago. He has finished on the podium twice in the last four races with second-place finishes at Toronto and Pocono Raceway.
• INCREASING THE GAP: Castroneves was able to extend his lead in the Verizon IndyCar Series Championship standings during the weekend in Toronto. Both he and his Team Penske teammate, Will Power, came away from the weekend with podium results. However, Castroneves was able to expand his lead by four points over Power and now holds a 13-point advantage in the series standings entering this weekend.
• ANOTHER POLE WIN COMING?: Castroneves drove the No. 3 Team Penske car to the pole position at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in both 2007 and 2008. A two-time winner of the Verizon P1 Pole Award so far this season, Castroneves will be looking to add a third pole to his totals this weekend.
• FORMER WINNER: Castroneves has won twice at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with both wins coming back-to-back in 2000 and 2001. He started from the second position on the grid in both victories.
• HONORING A MENTOR: Since joining Team Penske in 2000, Castroneves has developed a close relationship with Team Penske advisor, Rick Mears. One of only three men to win the Indianapolis 500 four times, Mears will be honored by the Bobby Rahal Foundation during a VIP dinner at the Aladdin Shrine Center in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday night.
You extended your championship lead by four points in Toronto. Do you feel good about where you are in championship hunt?
“Of course it was great to extend the points lead in Toronto, even if it was by just a few. I can’t complain about that. I was happy to finish on the podium on a track where I historically haven’t finished too strongly. As for the championship, I am not too concerned about that at this stage. We have strong pace everywhere we go. I’m focused on bringing the car home as best I can and the championship will figure itself out. The schedule might say that we only have four races left in the season, but that is a lot. Especially when the finale at Auto Club Speedway race is for double points.”
You last won 13 years ago at the Mid-Ohio sports car course in the champ car series in 2001. Can you win again in 2014?
“I have great memories of winning at Mid-Ohio in the early 2000’s. It’s a course where I’ve always run well and I’m looking forward to running there this year. I’m confident we have a car that can win this race; it’s a matter of working with the team to make sure we set up the car in the best way possible. We tested there last week and it was a bit of a mixed bag. We learned a lot, both good and bad, but learning nonetheless. The No. 3 Hitachi Chevy has been fast all year, though, so I know (race engineer) Jonathan (Diuguid) and the guys will get us dialed in.”
Will Power - No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
• Looking for that first win: Currently ranked second in the championship standings, Power is one of the premiere road course drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Unfortunately, he has yet to win at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Other than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which made its debut this season, Mid-Ohio is the only road course on the circuit where Power has yet to visit Victory Lane. In five career starts there, Power has an average finishing position of 5.2. He has earned two second-place finishes in 2010 and 2012. Power will be looking to make his first visit to the top step of the podium on Sunday.
• Leading the way in laps: Of the 1,720 laps contested this year in the Verizon IndyCar Series, CasWill Power has completed all but one. This means he has completed more than 99.9% of the laps run this season, more than any other driver in the series.
• Best of the top four: Of the four drivers within 100 points of the lead in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings, Power has the best average finishing position over the last two years at the four remaining tracks on the schedule with an average of 6.125.
• Podium prowess: Power is tied with Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves for the most podium finishes in the Verizon IndyCar Series this season. Both drivers have six podiums, and both claimed top-three results during the series doubleheader race weekend in Toronto.
• Best average finisher: Will Power has an average finishing position of 6.5 this season, which is the best among full-time drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series. This consistent speed will serve him well with four races remaining before the series crowns its 2014 champion at Auto Club Speedway on Labor Day weekend.
How do you feel about the upcoming tracks as you battle for the series championship?
“We’ve had some tough breaks over the last few races, but that’s racing. Some of them were self-inflicted and some were just plain bad luck. We finished on the podium in the second race at Toronto so that gives us a good deal of momentum heading into this weekend’s race at Mid-Ohio. If you look at the way we finished the season last year we are definitely right where we need to be in the standings. I love all of the upcoming circuits so the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet should be right there. As long as we can run clean races we will be in a good position.”
You’ve finished second twice at Mid-Ohio, how can you get to the top of the podium?
“I really enjoy racing at Mid-Ohio. It’s another one of those beautiful road courses that uses the natural terrain really well. It’s a fast, technical circuit that requires a lot of attention to detail in terms of the set up. There has certainly been no lack for speed in the No. 12 Verizon Chevy this year, so I see no reason why we can’t be fighting for the win. We’ll have to put our heads down and push hard all weekend. I would really love to get a win at Mid-Ohio. It’s something I haven’t been able to do yet in my career and it would set us up well for the run to Auto Club Speedway.”