Juan Pablo Montoya noticed the Colombian fans waving flags and wildly cheering for him as he zipped toward the checkered flag. Moments after celebrating, Montoya ducked his way through the crowd waiting at Victory Lane and headed toward the grandstands to sign autographs and pose for pictures.
“I had to say thanks for coming,” he said.
Montoya saved his deepest gratitude for car owner Roger Penske.
Montoya won the IndyCar race Sunday at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, with the victory serving as the highlight of a triumphant return to open-wheel racing after seven years in NASCAR.
Up ahead, a serious run at the IndyCar championship.
“I think people know I’m coming,” Montoya said.
Montoya won for the first time in the CART/IndyCar Series since 2000 and had his first major victory since he won a road-course race at Watkins Glen in NASCAR in 2010.
Helio Castroneves was second to make it a 1-2 finish Sunday for Team Penske. With double points awarded in the 500-mile races, Castroneves moved into a tie for the points lead with Team Penske teammate Will Power.
For Montoya, it was just the kind of scene he pictured when he decided to head home to open wheel. Montoya wanted a competitive ride again after lackluster results driving for Chip Ganassi in NASCAR. He knew his open-wheel return would have a learning curve: Montoya last ran in CART in 2000, then left Formula One midway through the 2006 season for NASCAR.
After only two top-10s in his first seven starts, Montoya reeled off a third, second and seventh in his past three. Now, he has the win needed to erase any lingering doubts that his move back to open wheel was the right one.
Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay lost his shot at winning the series’ Triple Crown when he was forced out only 28 laps into the race. Pocono and Fontana join the Indianapolis 500 as the three races that use three-wide starts, run 500 miles and award double points.
Lewis Hamilton won a crash-hit British Grand Prix in Silverstone, England, to cut Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg’s lead in the drivers’ championship from 29 points to just four after the German had his first non-finish of the season.
Hamilton, the 2008 champion, started sixth on the grid. The British driver leapt to fourth on the opening lap before it was red-flagged, and suspended for an hour, following a crash involving 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and Felipe Massa of Williams.
Hamilton then took the lead after 29 laps as Rosberg retired with gearbox failure.
Hamilton came home 30 seconds clear of Finn Valtteri Bottas of Williams, who started 14th.
John Force raced to his 140th career victory, beating Ron Capps in the Funny Car final in the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Norwalk, Ohio.
Force powered his Ford Mustang to a winning pass of 4.113 seconds at 317.27 mph for his first victory in Norwalk.
Antron Brown won in Top Fuel, Erica Enders-Stevens in Pro Stock, and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock.
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