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Montoya heats up for Penske as IndyCar hits Pocono

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 5, 2014 at 5:23 pm •  Published: July 5, 2014

LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Juan Pablo Montoya has been sprayed with champagne, doused with milk, and feted with confetti.

But he never expected to find himself buried under a potato chip shower courtesy of teammate Helio Castroneves.

Unable to contain his patriotic fervor after his native Brazil scored a World Cup goal, Castroneves sprung from his seat and dumped a bowl of chips all over Montoya. Montoya seemed slightly irked at the mess and dusted the crumbs off the Colombian jersey he wore at IndyCar's soccer watch party.

"Helio's the kind of guy that likes the drama," Montoya said, smiling.

Montoya had no use for another chip — after all, there's a reason he signed with Roger Penske — but the secret snack attack was just a minor annoyance in a major successful stretch for the former Indianapolis 500 champion in his open wheel return.

In the true IndyCar crunch time, Montoya's adjustment to the car after an uneven seven-year stint in NASCAR may be over. After only two top 10s in his first seven starts, Montoya reeled off a third, second and seventh in his past three.

And because of two races a year on the tri-oval track for NASCAR, no driver will know the Pocono Raceway course as well as he does in Sunday's race.

Once a brash and fearless driver, Montoya is starting to feel like his old self — and that could spell bad news for the rest of the field down the stretch.

"I'm getting more cocky," Montoya said.

He flashed some serious speed Saturday at Pocono when he turned a track-record lap of 223.920 mph and posted a two-lap average of 223.871 to win his first pole of the season.

Montoya said he now has a better understanding of how to make the car do what he wants. With each day, his speed improves, his confidence swells and he believes he's now on the same pace as Team Penske teammates Will Power and Castroneves.

"It's fun because I feel it starting to click," Montoya said. "The more it starts to click, the more confident you get in the car, the more you push it."

Montoya is making his championship push at the right time with eight races left in the season, including some that boast double points.

Montoya has some familiar faces to catch in his pursuit of a championship: Power and Castroneves are 1-2 in the standings. Montoya is fifth and rising fast, a Pocono win would net him 100 points in the 500-miler and would stamp him a serious player in the championship hunt.

All three drivers insisted it's not awkward chasing each other for the championship.

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