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Pruett's Preview: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

Team Penske’s Juan Montoya not only leads the Verizon IndyCar Series point standings heading into this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, he also leads an interesting group of drivers who have taken over the top three spots in the championship.

IndyCar is filled with promising rookies and aspiring stars who will eventually take the reins from the veterans, but so far in 2015 – at least through the first three rounds – a bit of separation has occurred as open-wheel’s elder statesmen have shot to the top of the championship.

Barber Motorsports Park will complete the quarter-distance mark in the quest for IndyCar’s Astor Cup, yet with the title far from decided, could 39-year-old Montoya, second-place and fellow 39-year-old Helio Castroneves, and 40-year-old Tony Kanaan have an edge born from age and experience? 

And with the introduction of aero kits, is there a connection between the successes they’ve found tuning their Chevy-powered Dallara DW12 and their history of racing and developing cars during CART’s days of open technology? JPM believes all of those factors have played a role this year, and more.

“It’s a big thing, and with years of experience, you do get a lot more consistent,” he said. “You make a lot less mistakes; you’re more precise. It works out a lot better with all the experience we have. Can we make mistakes? Yes? Does it happen more often? No. 

“And we have a lot of experience developing cars before these; it’s relevant because I’ve only spent two years with these new cars. I think it also comes from our backgrounds because we all ran in Europe and you’re constantly developing cars from early in your career.”

Montoya has been a revelation so far in his return to IndyCar competition. The Colombian says he’s enjoying the view as the current points leader, but with a packed field of fast drivers – especially those from his Chevy-powered Team Penske program and Chevy stablemate Chip Ganassi Racing, he knows his view could change in an instant.

“If you calculate four Penske cars and two Ganassi cars, you can either win or finish sixth,” he explained. “And if the other two Ganassi cars run good, you could be eighth. If a lot of those guys have good days, you have to have a great day just to beat them. It’s a big group of guys to stay ahead of, and if you’re behind them, it’s really tough to make any improvements. 

And I haven’t talked about a Honda, or any other Chevy teams – Newgarden, who runs well, or Bourdais, who runs well. It’s really close. Things are going to start getting really busy this weekend, and before you know it, we’ll be at Indianapolis. Getting out of Barber in good shape (in the standings) is going to be really important.”

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