March 30, 2015
Last year, Juan Pablo Montoya made big news in the world of
Indy Car when he returned to the series after 14 years away racing in Formula
One and NASCAR. He had dominated the old CART Indy Car series during his time
there capturing the championship as well as winning the Indianapolis 500 in
2000. Questions as to whether he would be able to live up to his previous glory
hounded him especially early in the season as success did not come right away.
By the end of the season, he was getting back in to form and
he won his first race back at Pocono in the fall. It remained to be seen if he
was fully back or if that win was an anomaly and this season on the powerhouse
Penske team would be the proof (or lack thereof) of his current ability.
Qualifying for the St. Pete race was good as he started in 4th place
until you consider that he was in last place among his four teammates.
Race day was warm and sunny and the excitement of starting
the 2015 Indy Car season was palpable in the air as the grid was set-up. My pit
pass enabled me to be on the starting grid prior to the start and it was a
festive atmosphere as they had the TV reporters scurrying about, the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers mascot and cheerleaders on the grid and the regular cast of Indy Car
celebrities such as David Letterman on hand.
The race got off to a clean start as Will Power moved to the
point, but soon drivers were knocking in to each other with frequency and the
seemingly obvious became a reality as the new aero-kits would disintegrate into
sharp pieces with each contact. Replacing nose cones and flat tires resulted
translating in to many laps run under the yellow flag. It made for a lot of
exciting re-starts but Power maintained his advantage until a poor pit-stop
dropped him to third place and Montoya inherited the lead.
Power would move to second and battle vigorously with
Montoya, even running in to him briefly on one pass attempt, but he could not
get by and Montoya scored his second win since returning to Indy Car. Power
snared second followed by Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud
giving Penske racing four of the top five.
My pass also allowed me access to Victory Lane and I was
able to enjoy watching the podium celebration as well as the many Columbian
fans who were on hand to celebrate their hero’s victory. It was cool getting to
watch the party as Montoya celebrated and to be so up close to the car and
drivers as they enjoyed their success.