INDYCAR: Bravo for Colombian sweep at Grand Prix of Houston

Posted Jun 29, 2014 by John Duarte
On the day the Colombian national football team scored its best-showing ever at the World Cup, a trio of Colombian drivers took the top three placings in Race 1 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader on Saturday.
Carlos Huertas (centre) not only won the first IndyCar race of his career  he was part of the trio o...
Carlos Huertas (centre) not only won the first IndyCar race of his career, he was part of the trio of Colombian drivers who swept the podium in the first of two races at the Grand Prix of Houston on June 28, 2014. Huertas is flanked by runner-up Juan Pablo Montoya (left) and third-place finisher Carlos Muñoz.
Chris Owens/
IndyCar rookie Carlos Huertas led the final seven laps of the first race of the second doubleheader of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, but the was all he needed to win Race 1 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston. The fact that the race was shortened due to time constraints and that it finished under caution-flag conditions.
“The races are so long, you always have a chance to win if you do the right things at the right time,” said Huertas.
The first of two races making up the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston was a challenging one for all drivers. IndyCar officials also decided before the start of the race that it was going to be impossible to complete the scheduled 90 laps, so they announced the event would be a timed race. However, it was the rain making the temporary street circuit slick that made the race challenging during the early stages of the race and the numerous caution flags brought out due to standing water making parts of the track slippery.
“Today was really tough. I was really struggling,” the race winner said. “I had no pace in the first half of the race. But I reminded myself just to 'stay calm and do what you have to do' and I did that.”
Huertas becomes the first IndyCar driver to win a race in his debut season on the series since 2006, when Sebastian Bourdais accomplished the feat. The 23-year-old IndyCar rookie was joined on the podium by two fellow Colombians. In third place was fellow rookie Carlos Muñoz and between them veteran driver Juan Pablo Montoya.
Montoya praised his young countryman, but had to pass on a quick lesson how how to be a winner. He scolded Huertas on his appearance at post race interviews.
“He had the suit all open and I told him, 'You've got to look good',” joked Montoya, before congratulating Huertas. “He's a good kid and he did a good job today.”
Muñoz beamed with national pride after the race.
“This is terrific for Colombia. (It's) The first time for 1-2-3 on a podium in a motorsports race and first time we go to the quarterfinals (at the World Cup),” he said as he proudly displayed the Colombian flag. “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. Everybody celebrating.”
The two IndyCar rookies were seven years old in Bogota, Colombia, when Montoya won his first IndyCar race. Muñoz recalled when he looked up to Montoya while racing go-karts in the South American country.
“I grew up looking at Juan Pablo (on) how to be a professional race car driver,” Muñoz said. “He's always been an example for me and also for a lot of drivers growing up.”
The praise was something that wasn't lost on the veteran driver, whose career has spanned seasons in IndyCar, NASCAR and Formula 1.
“They should have respected me and let me win,” Montoya joked.
The veteran racer started his top-lever career in IndyCar in 1999, where he promptly won the series championship. Montoya raced one more year in IndyCar before heading for Formula 1, where he raced for six years with varying degrees of success before returning to North America to drive 13 seasons on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He also won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000.
At 39 years of age, Montoya returned to the IndyCar circuit. While he admits the process of success is a long one, Montoya says he is close. A second-consecutive Top 3 finish gives Montoya reason to be hopeful for better results.
“We have really good days. We keep building on it. We keep getting better. It's just a matter of time. I think the wins are coming,” he said. “I think once it clicks, it's going to click pretty well.”
Nothing changes at the top of the Verizon IndyCar Series standings. Will Power continues to lead Helio Castroneves by 39 points, with Ryan Hunter-Reay in third place overall.
The second race of the Shell and PennzoilGrand Prix of Houston doubleheader runs June 29, 2014. The Verizon IndyCar Series schedule then returns to track racing on July 6, 2014, with the Pocono IndyCar 500 on the triangle-shaped Pocono Raceway, in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.