LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Juan Pablo Montoya was momentarily caught in a time warp.
During a reconnaissance lap of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course before the start of a team test day in the No. 2 Team Penske entry, he noted that the facility appeared much as it did during his last visit in 2000.
"That's not a bad thing," he said. "They don't make tracks like this anymore. It's fun to drive, it feels the same. What was a good lap this morning you can do in an out lap this afternoon."
Montoya, who finished 24th in the Miller Lite 200 on Aug. 14, 2000, at Mid-Ohio (ran out of fuel), joined 19 other Verizon IndyCar Series drivers for a full day on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course in preparation for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 1-3. With the stretch of six races in four weeks completed, a test day is both a luxury and necessity with two road course races and two oval events left on the calendar.
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"The last time we had a test on a road course was Barber in spring, so this is a time when we can really try loads of different things that we don't get the time to do on race weekends," said Mike Conway, winner of the most recent race at Toronto in the No. 20 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka car for Ed Carpenter Racing. "We can take our time going through the changes and get it dialed in for the race weekend."
The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 24 is the penultimate race and the final one of the season that Conway will drive. Team owner Ed Carpenter will compete in the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at Milwuakee IndyFest on Aug. 17 and the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway on Aug. 30. Multiple teams tested at the Milwaukee Mile during a brief break in mid-June and 11 drivers are scheduled to test Aug. 7 at Sonoma Raceway. An Open Test before the finale on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway also is scheduled.
"I was really happy with the result on the last race on a street course for the year and we'll get cracking for the last two (road course) races with this test day," added Conway, who held off Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Tony Kanaan to win Race 2 of the Honda Indy Toronto on July 20. "It's crazy to think we only have four races left in the season. It's gone by fast."
Conway, who has provided Ed Carpenter Racing two of its three victories this season, also has sports car duties to attend to in Europe said he's looking forward to returning to INDYCAR in 2015.
"I've really enjoyed my time with Ed and after I finish my sports car program hopefully we can figure out how we'll continue together for next year," he said. "(Competing in road/street races this year) was what I wanted to do and I'm thankful to Ed for giving me the chance to do that. It's been a good year, and I think next year we could definitely come out strong and have even better year. We're still pushing this year."
Toronto race is most-watched since 2011
Conway's victory in Race 2 was the most-watched Verizon IndyCar Series race telecast on NBCSN since the 2011 Grand Prix of Baltimore.
Through eight races on NBCSN, viewership is up 46 percent from the 2013 average viewership over eight races.
"INDYCAR is definitely on the upswing, whether it's ratings or putting buns in the seats," reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon said. "(This season) has been up and down with so many different drivers winning and even a rookie winning. It's strong for the sport and fun for the fans to see different cars at the front. The competition is the deepest it's ever been. I think it's exciting."
INDYCAR hands out penalties
INDYCAR announced post-Honda Indy Toronto infractions.
• INDYCAR officials have fined Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing $5,000 for a technical violation on its No. 16 Verizon IndyCar Series entry driven by Luca Filippi. The entrant was found to have violated Rule 22.214.171.124. (car weight) of the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook following Race 1 qualifications.
• INDYCAR officials have fined A.J. Foyt Racing $1,000 for a technical violation on its No. 14 Verizon IndyCar Series entry driven by Takuma Sato. The entrant was found to have violated Rule 126.96.36.199 (underwing height) of the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook following Race 2.
The member may contest the imposition of the penalty pursuant to the procedures and timelines detailed in the review and appeal procedures of the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook.
A Chip Ganassi Racing car has won the past five races at Mid-Ohio. "You have to give a lot of the credit to the team for the success we've had," said Dixon, who has won four of the past seven races at Mid-Ohio. "The thing that is out of our control is that it changes each year -- the tires are a little different, we changed manufacturers to Chevy this year and development of dampers and the set-up is constant. There are always things you can improve on." Charlie Kimball, driving the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing car, won his first Verizon IndyCar Series race last August.