Juan Pablo Montoya completed Round 2 of his acclimation to the Chevrolet-powered No. 2 Team Penske car Dec. 10. This outing was on the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway oval.
Last month, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner tested on the 1.65-mile Sebring International Raceway short course. Up next is a rescheduled session Dec. 12 at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval and a Dec. 16 date at the 2.385-mile, 12-turn Sonoma Raceway. Helio Castroneves, the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship runner-up and three-time Indy 500 champion, and four-time 500 Mile Race champion Rick Mears joined Montoya at Phoenix.
Castroneves took some early laps to shake down the car.
"Well, my first impression was when Helio started running. We did some laps in the road car and I said in NASCAR we brake here and here," Montoya relayed. "And he was like, ‘No, this is going to be wide open.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ I will tell you, if you are standing in pit road and watch in Turn 1 how the car goes. In the straight it just goes fast, but you don’t really realize how fast he’s going until he turns and the thing just snaps into the corner. And then you like into (Turns) 3 and 4 and you know, ‘Wow.’ Your foot never moved. For me, the big difference is the entry to the corner. Once you get to the middle of the corner, whatever speed you have, you are committed to. You can see the exit, too, and you’re like, ‘Ahhh.’
"You just want to build to it and get comfortable with the feel. I’m still understanding what the car wants and what I want out of the car. You forget how fast an open-wheel car is (on the Phoenix oval). Around 6 seconds quicker than a Cup car a lap."
Following a break for the holidays, Montoya will join Castroneves and Will Power for a manufacturer test in mid-January at Sebring. An Open Test is scheduled for March 16-17 at Barber Motorsports Park, and the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is March 28-30.
“It’s funny because it’s a lighter car, but the wheel is like – everybody complained when I ran NASCAR how heavy my wheel was, everybody that drove my car, and honestly because we have no power steering, that’s how heavy it is," Montoya continued. "What I remember, road courses, I understand it’s heavy, but I never thought that it would be heavy on an oval, but it’s like, ‘Hold your breath and turn.’ It’s breathtaking. The more laps I do, the easier it becomes, and it’s just that little bit."