|Huertas leads Colombian sweep of Houston podium|
|Saturday, June 28, 2014 8:00 PM|
HOUSTON — Moments after Colombia wrapped up its victory over Uruguay in the World Cup, a trio of Colombian drivers headed to the rain-soaked podium at the Grand Prix of Houston.
One by one, Carlos Huertas, Juan Pablo Montoya and Carlos Munoz unfurled their yellow, blue and red flags in a celebratory Saturday for their country. It was the first all-Colombian podium in IndyCar history.
Huertas, a 23-year-old rookie, used strategy to grab his first career victory. He was followed by Montoya, in his highest finish in this year's return to IndyCar, then Munoz, who was moved to third-place when Graham Rahal wrecked Tony Kanaan on an aborted final restart.
It put Montoya, a former champion who also raced in Formula One and NASCAR, on the far right of the podium next to a pair of young drivers who grew up idolizing him.
"Look, it's just like beating any other driver," Huertas said. "You guys, the fans, they know what he has done. They keep reminding us. It just shows the level of the series, if I do a good job, I can beat guys like that. My objective is to beat all the drivers and I treat them all the same."
Stoic and unemotional, Huertas insisted he was thrilled with the victory and the footnote he and his countrymen had on the big day for Colombia.
But Montoya and Munoz were adamant the day was historic.
"I think today is the first day in motor racing in the world that three Colombians are on the podium, it's unbelievable and it's exciting and, in my opinion, they've got a good shot in World Cup as well," Montoya added.
Munoz preferred to be sticking in Houston for today's second race of the doubleheader weekend.
"We are really lucky to be here in America and not in Colombia because right now Colombia should be really crazy to go out in the streets," Munoz added. "Everybody celebrating. This is a big deal. This is terrific for Colombia, first time 1-2-3 on a podium in a motorsports race, and first time we go to quarterfinals. We showed what Colombians are made of, and showed the bad image people have of Colombia, it's not about one thing."
It was an unpredictable and wet race through the temporary street course at Reliant Park. Originally scheduled for 90 laps, IndyCar decided right before the start to go to a timed race at 1 hour, 50 minutes because the conditions would take too long to go the scheduled distance.
Dale Coyne Racing used strategy to get Justin Wilson and Huertas to the front but Wilson eventually had to pit for fuel; Huertas assumed the lead with just over seven minutes to go. Then Ryan Briscoe turned Sebastian Saavedra, the fourth Colombian in the field, to bring out a caution with five minutes to go.
IndyCar believed it had enough time after the cleanup to run one final lap and Huertas lined up with Montoya, Tony Kanaan, Graham Rahal and Munoz behind him.
But as they inched toward the green flag, Rahal anxiously turned Kanaan and the start was waved off. Rahal was assessed a 30-second penalty for the contact with Kanaan; it gave Munoz the final spot on the podium.
Montoya, an idol to all young Colombian drivers, went to victory circle to congratulate Huertas.
Kanaan was livid after the accident and wouldn't even look at Rahal when Rahal came to apologize after the race.
"I can't do what I really want to do," Kanaan explained. "What a shame. To be taken out, I think it's stupid. He was having a good day, too, and it ruined his day, too. I wanted to believe he didn't do it on person, and of course he came to apologize."
Rahal took full blame.
"With the stack-up on the restart, I was trying to keep the tires as dry as I could and I was to the left and when I stacked up, I just didn't see him at all," Rahal explained. "I just got into the back of him."
It ended a strong run for Rahal, who stalled on the standing start but had rallied through the field and used a strong late drive to move into fourth before the last caution. Had the race gone green one last time, Rahal thought he had the winning car.
Watkins Glen newcomer Brundle takes pole
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Britain's Alex Brundle won the Prototype class pole Saturday for today's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, running a lap of 1 minute, 37.902 seconds.
Before the 15-minute qualifying session, the son of former Formula One driver Martin Brundle had only seven laps of practice on the 3.4-mile circuit. He's teaming with Gustavo Yacaman and Ho-Pin Tung in the No. 42 OAK Racing Morgan/Nissan.
OAK Racing will be joined on the front row by Action Express Racing, seeking its third consecutive victory at The Glen. Christian Fittipaldi turned a lap of 1:38.560 in the No. 5 Corvette DP co-driven by Joao Barbosa.
Andy Priaulx, another British driver competing at Watkins Glen for the first time, gave BMW its first pole in the GT Le Mans class in a session that saw eight drivers representing five manufacturers qualifying within one second. Priaulx turned a lap of 1:44.084 in the No. 55 Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE, edging out Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.
Other class pole winners were Colin Braun in Prototype Challenge and Leh Keen in GT Daytona.
JGR extends Kenseth, Dollar General sponsorship
SPARTA, Ky. (AP) — Joe Gibbs Racing has announced a contract extension for driver Matt Kenseth and Dollar General's expanded sponsorship of his No. 20 Toyota Camry.
The discount store chain will sponsor the car for 30 races in 2015 including the season-opening Daytona 500. That's up from 27 events this year and 17 in 2013.
Dollar General's increased involvement comes at a time when sponsors are cutting down and doing more 12-16-race deals. Company chairman Rick Dreiling said Saturday that Kenseth's success with JGR and his appeal made it easy to expand the company's involvement.
JGR president J.D. Gibbs didn't specify the length of Kenseth's extension, only that it was for a "number of years."
Both announcements pleased the 2003 champion, who said his relationships with the team and sponsor "has been a great fit for me."