Indy Winners Get Physical(s)

2014 IndyCar Series

story and photos by Tim Hailey

Tony Kanaan (second from left) noses ahead of Scot Dixn, Helio Castroneves, and Juan Pablo Montoya

The four current IndyCar Series drivers with Indianapolis 500 wins on their resume—Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan—met the media at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum to preview the upcoming 2014 IndyCar Series season, the Indy 500 and the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The drivers were in town for their physicals and the Speedway took the opportunity to do a little PR—very little, as one well-kown wag pointed out. “The inside 465 media,” he said.

A slim Montoya got all wide-eyed when talking about his MotoGP 2-seater ride around the Speedway

Montoya has shed a whole lotta pounds from his stock car driving weight to fit the 1,525 pound Dallara. Speedway president Doug Boles pointed out that Montoya may have more varied and continuous experience than any driver at the Speedway—starting with his 2000 Indy 500 win, through F1, the Brickyard 400, the Brickyard Grand Prix Grand Am race, and even riding the MotoGP 2 seater behind Randy Mamola. “Every year you came here and you’re not in an Indy car, it’s cool, but you want to come to the Museum to see the Indy cars,” said Montoya. “It’s not the same. The Brickyard is a big deal, but it’s not the Indy 500. I never thought I’d be back here to try to get another win. I’m excited and to race here for Team Penske is a hell of a chance (to win).

“It’s pretty exciting (to be back at the Speedway). I really haven’t thought about it too much. I’m more of a guy who goes, ‘What’s next? Are we testing? Are we doing this or are we doing that? I try not to think about it too much. Once we need to come to Indy, I’ll worry about Indy and not before. Still it’s exciting. If you think about it, I’m 1-for-1 here and it would be cool to be 2-for-2.”

Scott Dixon and his baby Astor Cup. MORE PHOTOS

Series champion Scott Dixon received his personal copy of the Astor Cup for winning the 2013 season championship. He thinks Montoya will be immediately competitive. “Yes, absolutely,” said Dixon. “As they just said, he’s won in every kind of formula that he’s ever been in. It’s going to be a learning curve, but it’s not something that he’s not done before. Yes, the past six or seven years have been a totally different kind of car, but this year with some of the changes in testing, it’s opened it up a bit. There’s 18 days in total now, which seems like more than what we’ve had recently. That’s good for him, but the addition of being in a really strong team and having really strong teammates will definitely quicken that process up. Say he comes in a little slow; it won’t take long if he does. I expect him to be quick straight out of the box and having the possibility of going for race wins straight on.

“For a driver, and anyone involved with the Indy 500, the Speedway is a really special place. The history and everything about it. Coming from New Zealand this is pretty spectacular and I think you can say that about anybody. The way the year works out, you can break it down into two goals. You can try to win the Indianapolis 500 and then try to win the championship. It’s always an exciting time. To try to get everything right in just a three hour time is nearly impossible.”

Dixon drives for the Target/Chip Ganassi team, which made a major change from Honda to Chevy for 2014—despite winning the 500 in ’12 and the championship in ’13 with Honda. “In some ways, change is enlightening,” said Dixon. “Over a two year period – if you look at the previous four or five years with Honda it wasn’t the same because there was no competition – the last two years was a short time, but it was relationships you’d be working on for quite some time. The change is what it is, but it makes it interesting, too. The engine is totally different, even though they are very close and competitive on track. The ways they have reached that power and drivability from different directions and that’s quite exciting.”

3X Indy 500 winner Helio “Roberto Benigni” Castroneves. MORE PHOTOS

With the accident-forced retirement of 3X Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, Montoya’s Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves is now the only 3X champ left in the field. “Being in Indianapolis is always incredible,” said Castroneves. “Winning three times and being so close to winning four. I’m sure these other guys feel the opposite—but if I get four, I’ll be able to join Rick Mears, who I work with and is my mentor and hero. It would be amazing and a dream come true to be in the same group as Rick, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser Sr. I know it’s a big task, but I have big dreams as well.”

2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan. MORE PHOTOS

Tony Kanaan, who replaces Franchitti at Ganassi, finally snagged a popular 500 win last year. “Now I know why these guys enjoyed winning the Indy 500 so much,” said Kanaan. “You get to celebrate for a year. It’s January and tomorrow I go to Detroit to finally get my Baby Borg. I don’t have my ring yet, which I’m waiting for quite anxiously. A lot of things have happened since (May). But I have to say, all the good things that happened was because of the win.”

Kanaan reports that Franchitti is still very much a part of the team. “I’ve been with him all day, yesterday. We had dinner last night. We’re having dinner tonight. We’ve been talking. It’s funny. I expected that we were going to be talking more, even if he was still racing, because we are in the same team. Since his retirement, we’ve been talking every day. More than ever. He’s still part of the team, so for me, it’s still hard for me to see that he’s not going to be around driving the car. Not a lot of things have changed. We’re not going to bang wheels on the track but we still talk a lot.”

Practice for the first ever Grand Prix of Indianapolis begins May 8, followed immediately by 500 practice and qualifying, with raceday May 25.

This is as close as they let Speedway president Doug Boles get to “The Milk”

I took some time while I was at the Museum to shoot some details of some of my favorite cars:

1969 winning car of Mario Andretti, owned by recently deceased Andy Granatelli

The Coyote that earned A.J. Foyt his 4th Indy win in 1977. MORE PHOTOS

A Miller radiator. MORE PHOTOS

Jim Hall’s Yellow Submarine and Gordon Johncock’s 1982 winner. MORE PHOTOS

The 1970-71 winning Johnny Lightning Special of Al Unser. MORE PHOTOS

Dan Weldon’s 2011 winning car. MORE PHOTOS

Mark Donahue’s 1972 winning Penske McLaren. MORE PHOTOS