Indy 500, Brickyard 400 Winners Test On IMS Road Course
2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya and 2010 Brickyard 400 winner Jamie McMurray will discover different interpretations of what it means to be a teammate during the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard on July 26-29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Montoya and McMurray are NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teammates for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, with Montoya driving the No. 42 Target Chevrolet and McMurray driving the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/McDonald’s Chevrolet in the 19th Crown Royal Presents the “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 at the Brickyard on Sunday, July 29 on the IMS oval.
But when they race in the inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix GRAND-AM race Friday, July 27 on the IMS road course, they will share the wheel of the No. 02 Chevron BMW-Riley Daytona Prototype fielded by the Ganassi team.
“From the team side of it, I think this is really good for Juan and I because even though we’re on the same team in the NASCAR series, you’re still competing against each other, where here you’re literally on the same team, so if one of you wins, both of you win,” McMurray said. “I think it’s a really good relationship-builder for us to talk about the car and everything that’s going on, and both be pulling for the same car to win. I think it’s good for our relationship.”
McMurray and Montoya started preparation for the first Rolex Sports Car Series race on the 2.534-mile Grand Prix course by testing Monday, July 9 at IMS.
“Indy just has so much history behind it, and it’s just one of those places where if you’re a NASCAR fan or an INDYCAR fan, or any kind of a racing fan, this is the place you want to get to race at,” McMurray said. “First off, I think it’s really cool that GRAND-AM came here, and that all of the guys in the Rolex Series, whether it’s in the DP cars or the GT cars, get a chance to race here because it’s such a cool track.”
This will be the second time they are teammates this season in GRAND-AM, as they combined with Indianapolis 500 winners and Ganassi teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti to finish fourth in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January.
But they know racing in the Brickyard Grand Prix will be a challenge. For starters, McMurray never has raced on the IMS road course, and the Grand Prix circuit had a slightly different configuration when Montoya competed in the United States Grand Prix Formula One race from 2001-06.
“I’ve never went around Turn 1 wide open before, and the first time, even though you’re going backward, it’s kind of mindboggling to run flat out around there in the Rolex car,” McMurray said.
“There are a lot of G’s and a lot of load on your body, and one thing Juan and I were talking about is that all of these turns are right-handed, and my neck got tired in three laps because we’re not used to turning right. I told him to hang on and get prepared because your body’s going to go through something it hasn’t went through in a long time.”
McMurray turned laps in the morning Monday, while Montoya tested in the afternoon. Montoya jumped in an IMS Chevrolet pickup truck and turned a few impromptu, low-speed laps before his stint to re-acclimate himself with the track and the turn configuration behind the IMS Hall of Fame Museum, new since he last raced on the road course in 2006.
“We’re going to go through Turn 1 backward and through a road course, and it’s completely different mindsets,” Montoya said. “I’ve been here enough times in the Cup car already that you know where to brake, you know what to do, you know what you want out of the car. This is completely different.”
Another aspect of the challenge for Montoya and McMurray is seat time. They were unable to participate in two full days of GRAND-AM testing July 6-7 at IMS due to their Sprint Cup commitments at Daytona.
“Jamie’s having the morning and a little more, and I’m running in the afternoon, and that’s it,” Montoya said. “We don’t get a lot of time.”
At first, Montoya and McMurray were concerned with a packed schedule between Sprint Cup and Rolex Sports Car Series during the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard when team owner Chip Ganassi first offered them the Daytona Prototype ride. But they both anticipate smooth sailing since all of the GRAND-AM activity is scheduled for Friday, July 27 and Sprint Cup track action doesn’t start until Saturday, July 28.
“I don’t think it’ll be bad at all,” McMurray said. “I hadn’t looked at a schedule until recently, and it’s really nice. You’re not having to run one practice and then get in the Cup car and then get back in the GRAND-AM car.
“The fact that we’re doing all the GRAND-AM stuff in one day and that’s over with, and then our Sprint Cup weekend starts, I think that’ll make it easier. You can focus with just the one team and work on that particular car.”
The three-hour Rolex Sports Car Series race at Indianapolis – featuring Daytona Prototype and GT cars – will mark a special milestone in Montoya’s career. He will become the first driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400, United States Grand Prix and Brickyard Grand Prix events at IMS.
“I think it’s going to be cool,” Montoya said. “This is kind of crazy that pretty much everything with four wheels, I’ve been here at Indy. It’s pretty exciting. I think Jamie and I have a pretty good chance. I think the Chevron car is going to be pretty good.”
But don’t count on Montoya taking to two wheels to become the first person to race in five different events at IMS by competing in the Red Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP race.
“No,” he said, while laughing. “I did a two-seater two years ago, and that scared the hell out of me. It was fun; it was a hell of a ride, but hell, no!”