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Championship Leader Montoya Begins Stretch Run at Milwaukee

With decades of experience to draw from, there isn’t much in the world of auto racing that can faze Juan Montoya. The Verizon IndyCar Series’ championship leader heads into this weekend’s ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 in his usual state of calm and focus, and with IndyCar’s stop at the famed Milwaukee Mile serving as a countdown of sorts—the start of a busy five-race run to the season finale—the 39-year-old is ready to race his way to a second open-wheel title.

His first championship came in 1999 in the CART IndyCar series where the Colombian blitzed the packed field of stars. If Montoya demonstrated a particular strength two seasons of CART competition, it was on the ovals, and going one step further, JPM was a perfect fit for the one-mile bullrings. 

Of his 14 Indy car wins, nine have come on ovals, and with a victory at Milwaukee in 2000 and a fine second on the Mile during his IndyCar return in 2014, Montoya finds himself in an enviable position: Five races to go, with three on ovals, and a 43-point lead over his Team Penske stablemate Will Power.

It’s too early to crown JPM, but there’s no denying the defending Indianapolis 500 winner has a favorable string of events that seem tailor made for his championship bid.

“Last year in Milwaukee we were really good, and we were good at Iowa until I got taken out, and we won Pocono, so we know we have the potential to do really good on the rest of the ovals,” Montoya said. “But there’s no guarantee and you can’t go into any of them thinking it’s going to be easy because it won’t. Just because it looks perfect doesn’t mean it will be perfect. It never is. Too many things can go wrong, so we just have to be smart about it. If we’re smart, and execute, I think we’ll be OK.”

The ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 could help JPM to extend his lead over Power before the series moves to Iowa (July 18), Mid-Ohio (Aug. 2), Pocono (Aug. 23), and the season finale at Sonoma (Aug. 30). As the series’ ultimate realist, JPM isn’t prone to talk about hopes and dreams; he knows a championship is within reach, but won’t place any extra pressure on how the No. 2 Team Penske Chevy team approaches Milwaukee or the rest of the events left on the calendar.

“There’s two ways of losing this: You’re either too aggressive or you’re not fast enough,” he explained. “If you aren’t fast enough they’ll get more points and beat you, and if you’re too aggressive, you’ll throw away too many points and lose. If we keep doing our jobs, we’ll be fine. I was telling my wife that we’ve been doing an amazing job all year; we won the first race in St. Pete, we won the Indy 500, and you can’t be mad about that. If we win the championship, that’s a bonus. If we keep doing a good job, we’ll win the championship. If we don’t, we won’t. All we can do is our best, and if our best is good enough to win the championship, we’ll win it.”

Tune in to the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and follow on and the INDYCAR15 app.

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