Auto Racing (105)
The new Formula One schedule has been released with many of the main cities and countries represented. One race that was left off for yet another year was the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey.
Plenty of talk has surrounded the race since it was first announced in October of 2011, but each year financial hurdles have led to its postponement. It was originally talked about for the 2013 season, but it made sense to have another year of planning with an aim for the 2014 season. Now that the 2014 season is being postponed until 2015 – questions and uncertainty cloud the New Jersey race.
The 2014 postponement was due to a local sponsor having trouble coming up with more than the $100 million needed for the event. Financial restructuring is in the works to land a second U.S. race on the Formula One schedule and they’re determined to make this happen.
If the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey is to go off it would run on a 3.2-mile street circuit through the towns of Weehawken and West New York. Driving through those towns will create a beautiful backdrop of the New York City skyline.
The 2014 Formula One schedule will start in Melbourne, Australia on March 16th, race in Montreal on June 8th, head to Austin, Texas for November 2nd and end in Abu Dhabi on November 23rd.
Juan Pablo Montoya turned his first laps in an Indy car in 13 years Monday during his first test with new team Penske Racing.
The test at Sebring International Raceway was Montoya's first opportunity to get in his new car. He last drove in IndyCar in 2000, the year he won the Indianapolis 500 driving for Chip Ganassi.
Montoya spent seven seasons in NASCAR driving for Ganassi, but signed with rival Roger Penske in September to return to IndyCar when Ganassi decided not to bring the Colombian back for the 2014 season.
"I still don't believe it that I'm here, to be honest with you," Montoya said. "I look at the car and everything, my name on the car. It's really exciting. It's nice because there's been excitement (from) everybody that I'm coming back to open wheel."
New Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves both attended the test, and Power prepared the car before turning the No. 2 over to Montoya. Also on hand was Penske adviser and four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears.
Power was impressed with Montoya's first 20 laps, which weren't far off the pace Power set over 10 laps while shaking down the car in the morning. Montoya's speed did not surprise his new teammate.
"You don't win races in Formula One and poles in Formula One and races in the CART Series on your first try if you're slow," Power said. "I actually expected to learn from him. He's already brought some good ideas to the team even before he got in the car. Just from what I see from the data, he has a very similar style to me. The way he brakes and everything. That should be good as far as our setups."
Added Castroneves: "He felt really comfortable in the car. I wasn't expecting anything different to be honest. He was really relaxed."
Montoya described the first run as "really, really weird," because of all the personal adjustments he had to make to the car.
"The position of the wheel was really different. With a Cup wheel, you try to put it as low as you can, but it's so big, the wheel is a lot higher, so getting comfortable is a little bit different," said Montoya, adding that braking was difficult.
"You get on brakes and there's a bit of lag while the brakes get hot. So it takes a while to get used to that, but you get used to it. We're miles away from where I think I need to be, but second and third run it was going through the gears, through the motions. It's just so different. It's going to take a little bit of time."
Montoya was grateful Castroneves, Power and so many people from the Penske organization were on hand.
"Really, everybody works together and is trying to get me up to speed as fast as I can," Montoya said. "The faster I get up to speed, the better it is for everybody."
Montoya had modest goals for Monday: He wanted to get comfortable in the car and figure out what has changed since 2000, when he won the Indianapolis 500 driving for Ganassi.
"I'm not going out there to try and break the track record on the first lap," he said. "I'm going to build up to it and keep working on the car and get the car to do what I want. You learn that as you go through the years. When you are young, you drive the car anywhere it is. Then you realize you can make it drive for you, you can achieve the same things with half the effort."
Montoya won seven races in CART and the Indy 500 in his two seasons competing in open wheel with Ganassi. Their run together also included the 1999 CART championship. He then moved to Formula One, where he spent six seasons before abruptly quitting to return to the United States to compete in NASCAR. He reunited with Ganassi, but the results never came.
Montoya won one Nationwide race in 2007, and had two Sprint Cup victories in 253 career starts. His last win in NASCAR was in 2010, a year after he made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship and finished a career-best eighth in the standings.
At a fan event prior to his final NASCAR race earlier this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Montoya was blunt about his hopes for his move to IndyCar - "I'm tired of sucking," he said.
He'll have an opportunity to be competitive with Penske, a consistent contender in IndyCar for both the series championship and at the Indy 500.
"He told us he'd drive anything in the building as long as it could win," Penske team President Tim Cindric said at Sebring. "He's a quick learner, for sure. I think the difference is going to be getting him to understand what it takes to win ... I don't care who you are, it's going to take some time to learn those nuances.
"One strength that Juan has is that he's mentally tough. He doesn't let the little things bother him much. I think he takes a pretty simple approach and I think that could pay off for him in the series."
Montoya said he's not sure yet how he'll define success in IndyCar.
"Do I want to win? Of course I want to win. Do I want to do the best I can? Yeah. How good is that going to be? I don't know," he said. "You have to beat Will, who is one of the fastest guys in the series. Helio has a ton of experience. I ran against him when I won the championship, and he's still doing it.
"For them to get in the car every day it's no big deal. This is their home, and I need to make this my home."
Power, winner of 19 races since 2007 and a three-time runner-up in the IndyCar championship race, believes Montoya will be a strong addition to the Penske organization. Power hopes he can measure his own ability against Montoya.
"It's cool to be a teammate to a guy that was successful in Formula One. I've been wanting someone like that to go up against and see where I'm at," Power said. "When I was younger he was one of the guys I looked at as the best when I was trying to get to that level. Even in CART, when you look at some of those qualifying laps at Detroit, he was a very fast solid good racer and driver."
Cindric is hopeful Montoya can push both Power and Castroneves and get Penske another championship. Penske's last IndyCar title was in 2006 with Sam Hornish Jr., and the team hasn't won the Indy 500 since Castroneves in 2009.
Castroneves finished second to champion Scott Dixon this year, and Power was runner-up in 2010 through 2012.
"For us a team, we have to figure out how to put a whole season together," Cindric said. "There hasn't been a race in the last how many years that I didn't feel like we couldn't win. Trying to understand that championship mentality is something we failed the last four, five, six years. We should have half the championships from that span, but we don't.
"Maybe Juan can bring us that kind of mentality. He's learned a lot from his transition from Formula One to NASCAR. He hasn't had a successful teammate and we're going to be able to give him a gauge."
Dario Franchitti kept racing after the death of best friend Greg Moore. He continued on following the death of former teammate Dan Wheldon. He was eager to drive into his early 40s.
He won't get the chance.
The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and four-time IndyCar Series champion reluctantly and abruptly retired Thursday, saying doctors told him it would be too dangerous for him to continue racing because of injuries sustained in a harrowing crash last month.
''Racing has been my life for over 30 years, and it's really tough to think that the driving side is now over,'' Franchitti said.
Franchitti fractured his spine, broke his right ankle and suffered a concussion in the Oct. 6 race at Houston, where his car made contact with Takuma Sato's car on the last lap and sailed into a fence. Debris from the accident injured 13 fans in the grandstands and one IndyCar official.
The 40-year-old Franchitti underwent two surgeries on his ankle and recently returned home to Scotland to recover.
''One month removed from the crash, and based upon the expert advice of the doctors who have treated and assessed my head and spinal injuries post-accident, it is their best medical opinion that I must stop racing,'' Franchitti said. ''They have made it very clear that the risks involved in further racing are too great and could be detrimental to my long term well-being. Based on this medical advice, I have no choice but to stop.''
Franchitti did not use the word ''retire'' in a lengthy statement released through Target Chip Ganassi Racing, the team he joined in 2009 following a brief stint in NASCAR with Ganassi a year earlier.
Franchitti was unstoppable upon his return to IndyCar. Teamed with Ganassi and driving the feared red No. 10 Target car, Franchitti reeled off three consecutive championships and won 12 races. Two of the wins were Indy 500s.
He became the face of the series - Franchitti always had crossover appeal for IndyCar thanks to an 11-year marriage to actress Ashley Judd, which ended in January - because he was personable, well-spoken, popular in the paddock and passionate about the sport.
It resonated with fans and made Franchitti one of IndyCar's all-time greats. His 31 victories are tied for eighth on the all-time list, and his 33 poles are sixth.
''Dario Franchitti has done so much for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, so it will be very disappointing to not see him in our cars next season,'' Ganassi said. ''But simply put, Dario is a motorsports legend and will be sorely missed on the race track by everyone in the paddock and in the stands. His contributions to the sport of motor racing are too many to list, but I can tell you that they go way beyond what he has done on the track.''
Asked on Twitter if Franchitti had indeed retired, Judd replied: ''Yes, with an extraordinary career, legendary achievements, aplomb & style.''
Franchitti's last victory was the 2012 Indy 500, an emotional race that came seven months after defending winner Wheldon had been killed in a crash at Las Vegas. Franchitti battled teammate Scott Dixon over the final third of the race, jockeyed with Sato in the closing laps until Sato spun to bring out a caution, and led Dixon and Tony Kanaan across the finish line as three of Wheldon's closest friends finished 1-2-3.
It was a poignant moment for Franchitti, who was too familiar with death in the sport he loved. Moore died in the 1999 season finale at Fontana, and Franchitti to this day remains deeply affected by the loss.
''I'll forever look back on my time racing in CART and the IndyCar Series with fond memories and the relationships I've forged in the sport will last a lifetime,'' he said. ''Hopefully in time, I'll be able to continue in some off-track capacity with the IndyCar Series. I love open-wheel racing and I want to see it succeed. I'll be working with Chip to see how I can stay involved with the team, and with all the amazing friends I've made over the years at Target.
''As my buddy Greg Moore would say, 'See you up front.'''
Word of Franchitti's decision spread quickly and drivers who never raced against him reacted with sadness.
''I think to have him around and on the circuit is far better than him going an injuring himself again against doctor's advice,'' said Nigel Mansell, who was at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, for this weekend's Formula One race.
But those closest to Franchitti were most affected.
''Dario was a hell of a driver and will be missed - missed by everyone in racing around the world,'' said 1963 Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones. ''He was my kind of guy. He wasn't afraid to put his foot down and go. It is really hard to believe that he had to give up racing, I know would he would have won more races, and maybe Indy a couple more times, had he been able to continue driving.''
Michael Andretti, who fielded Franchitti's car for his first Indy 500 victory and first series championship in 2007, said he was shocked.
''I thought he had one good year left in him, and I know he wanted to race beyond IndyCar,'' Andretti said. ''So that's what I feel most bad about - he's being parked by a doctor. He's not going to be able to race the sports car stuff he had talked about. He won't race with his brother (Marino), Le Mans, all the things he wanted to fulfill.''
Dixon, who won the 2008 championship while Franchitti was in NASCAR, called his teammate a motorsports legend.
''More importantly, I can call him a best friend,'' Dixon said. ''There are very few people that have achieved as much in auto racing and knowing Dario, he won't go far as IndyCar racing is in his blood and I am sure he will stay involved somehow.''
Franchitti had lured good friend and former Andretti teammate Kanaan to the Ganassi stable for 2014, an announcement that was made at Houston two days before Franchitti's accident. Kanaan said he was counting the days ''to be his teammate again,'' but is grateful Franchitti will still be in the IndyCar paddock next season.
''As much as it hurts not seeing him compete with me in IndyCar, I'm delighted that he got out of that accident and is still here with us,'' Kanaan said.
Franchitti defeated Will Power three consecutive years to win the IndyCar championship and the two developed a rare rivalry for the series.
''We had some real battles out on the track over the last few years and I appreciated how fierce of a competitor he was,'' Power said. ''His accomplishments in IndyCar are incredible and the sport will definitely miss him.''
His retirement leaves Helio Castroneves as the only active three-time Indy 500 winner trying to join A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser Sr. as a four-time winner.
''I know he will continue to be a great ambassador for our sport and I'm sure Dario has a lot more to contribute to racing, it will just be in a different way than driving an IndyCar,'' Castroneves said.
Foyt, the only driver with more IndyCar titles than Franchitti with seven, said: ''If the doctors tell him he should quit then he should listen to them. I'm the opposite and never would listen, but I probably would have been a lot better off if I did. But Dario's won a lot of races and championships so he has a lot to be proud of. My hat's off to him.''
Franchitti could find a role with the Ganassi organization, or perhaps land in the television booth. Andretti suggested Franchitti would be a good fit as a consultant to a manufacturer.
For now, everyone was still trying to adjust to the idea of racing without Franchitti on the track.
''You pinch yourself everyday as firsthand you are witness to the talent, ability, work ethic and start-versus-win ratio of Dario Franchitti,'' Ganassi team manager Mike Hull said. ''Having Dario represent all of us is what's right about motorsports. His representation of the integrity of a true champion is what sets him apart.''
LAS VEGAS, NV - Chip Ganassi is making another manufacturer switch, taking his sports car program to Ford to run the new EcoBoost engine package next year.
The move announced Tuesday at the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association show comes on the heels of Ganassi's switch last month from Honda to Chevrolet in the IndyCar Series.
Chip Ganassi Racing is the most successful team in Daytona Prototype history and won its seventh DP team championship this season. It has used BMW engines the last four seasons, but will make the switch to Ford in time for the start of the unified TUDOR United SportsCar Championship series.
"We are very excited to be switching to Ford power for our sports car program," Ganassi said. "Over the last 10 seasons we have been able to experience a great deal of success in GRAND-AM and now with the dawn of the new United SportsCar Championship, we feel that Ford power will be a key ingredient to writing the next chapter of our sports car program."
The move to Ford marks a return to the blue oval for Ganassi lead driver Scott Pruett. He started with Ford in 1985 and was signed as a full-time factory driver the next season. Pruett won four IMSA and SCCA Trans-Am championships in three years before moving to IndyCar racing.
Both of Pruett's IndyCar wins came with Ford and his one full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was with Ford.
"Coming back to Ford is the perfect way to bookend my career," said Pruett. "To be honest, without Ford, there is no Scott Pruett. Ford gave me the chance to drive my first real race car - the front-engine Mustang GTP in 1983 - and then they were willing to take a chance on me when no one else did in 1985 and 1986."
Pruett, winner of 59 major sports car events and a record five Rolex 24 At Daytona wins, will again team with Memo Rojas to pilot the Telcel/TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entry. Pruett and Rojas have won 27 races since 2007.
"Partnering with Chip and his championship-calibre organization in this new sports car series is a critical ingredient to our Ford EcoBoost program in USCC," said Jamie Allison, director of Ford Racing.
Ford debuted its new EcoBoost DP engine at Daytona in September, when Colin Braun drove the 3.5-litre V6 twin-turbo-powered Michael Shank Racing Riley to a track record of 222.971 mph. Ford representatives had been searching for additional teams for 2014 to join Shank, but Ganassi could have also moved to Chevrolet and run Corvette DPs in 2014.
He is partnered with Chevrolet in NASCAR, and will be with Chevy next season in IndyCar.
Ford EcoBoost branding has appeared on various Ford race cars around the world the past two seasons as part of a strategy to raise brand awareness of the growing Ford line of production engines, which are now available in 1.0-litre, 1.5-litre, 1.6-litre, 2.0-litre and 3.5-litre versions.
Any auto racing weekend is filled with lots of beautiful things from the race cars to the beautiful women. We take a break from covering auto racing to give you what many of you probably really want to see - the list of the top-ten hottest women in auto racing. We’ve stretched this group out to include the driver’s wives and girlfriends to elevate this top-ten.
10) Emma Davies Dixon – Scott Dixon’s wife
Emma Davies Dixon makes this list as she’s the Welsh sweetheart that you would love to marry. She’s down-to-earth, wholesome and an underrated stunner.
She’s the wife of three-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon from New Zealand and an athlete in her own right. Emma is a former 800m running champion that now spends her time on the grid watching her husband race alongside her daughter, Poppy.
9) Kirsten Dee – James Hinchcliffe’s girlfriend
Kirsten Dee is one of the new girls on the IndyCar scene. Kirsten is in her early 20s and providing many neck strains with her stunning eyes and other assets on pit lane. She’s the girlfriend of Canadian race car driver, James Hinchcliffe, otherwise known as the self-proclaimed Mayor of Hinchtown.
Kirsten is a former Miss Indy Australia 2012 and a finalist in Miss Hawaiian tropics. In her first full season with Hinchcliffe, Kirsten has seen him race his best season yet capturing his first three wins in the process.
8) Marion Jollès-Grosjean – Romain Grosjean’s wife
Ah Marion Jollès-Grosjean! Her looks can make you melt like a hot chocolate croissant. Many people might not have seen her or know much about Formula One Lotus Renault driver Romain Grosjean, but he has scored seven podium finishes in his first two seasons.
Marion has the beauty and the brains, as she’s a French journalist and television presenter. She currently can be seen on Automoto on TF1 with Denis Brogniart. Who knows where that station is, but I’m sure many might be searching for it after reading this article.
7) Ingrid Vandebosch – Jeff Gordon’s wife
At the age of 42 and the oldest on this list, Ingrid Vandebosch hasn’t dealt with the aging process yet. She’s been the wife of NASCAR-star Jeff Gordon since 2006 and they seem to be the power couple of NASCAR.
Ingrid spends a portion of her time modelling and acting. She won the Elite Look of the Year Award back in 1990.
6) Dasha Kapustina - Fernando Alonso’s girlfriend
In Formula One, people believe you can score just about anyone and that’s the case with Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso and his beautiful Russian model girlfriend, Dasha Kapustina. They’ve been dating since mid-2012 and Dasha has caught the cat-like attention from the rest of the F1 wags.
Dasha has worked for the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and has modelled for Gucci, Dior and Chanel.
5) Amy Reimann – Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s girlfriend
Amy Reimann is simply gorgeous. She’s a 31-year-old Texan who went to school at the University of Kentucky for Interior Design and instantly gave a boost to the cheerleading squad. Amy met Dale Earnhardt Jr. while doing some design work at his home and they made their first appearance at the 2011 NASCAR awards.
She captures the attention of most of the press photographers, while she struts her stuff on race day. If Earnhardt Jr. is going to finally settle down, I can’t find any fault with Amy being the choice.
4) Danica Patrick – NASCAR driver
Danica Patrick should get extra points as being the only race car driver on this list, but we’ve given her a respectable fourth-place finish. Danica is the only women to win an open-wheel race with her victory at the 2008 Indy Japan 300.
She currently is racing in NASCAR with minimal success, but she’s been improving each year and got pole position at the Daytona 500. Fortunately for Danica, this list isn’t based on results and completely on looks, but if you combine the two, Danica is the complete package.
3) Bronte Tagliani – Alex Tagliani’s wife
If there’s any veteran to the wife/girlfriend scene on the race track, it’s Bronte Tagliani, the wife of IndyCar driver Alex Tagliani. Bronte has been at the side of her husband for over a decade. She’s an Australian model and fitness expert, who has trained Tagliani’s race crew in the past and who wouldn’t listen to her?
She’s appeared in various magazine photo shoots and contests throughout the years, but what she’s most known for is her cutting-edge fashion sense. Bronte sets the tone for all the other significant others on race day.
2) Jessica Michibata – Jenson Button’s girlfriend
Jessica Michibata tops the Formula One list. She’s the long-time girlfriend of British driver Jenson Button. This 29-year-old’s unique look comes from being half-Argentinian and half-Japanese and that combination provides us with a girl next door-look with a side of sexy.
Like many of the girls on this list, Jessica’s also a model with her speciality being lingerie. Away from the modelling scene, Jessica is a brand ambassador for TAG Heuer and a cinephile dedicating some of her time as a movie columnist. She can be seen on a weekly basis in the McLaren paddock wowing on-lookers and capturing the attention of the TV crew.
1) Jordan Fish – Denny Hamlin’s girlfriend
When going through the hottest girls on the racing scene, all I needed to do was look at the picture above to find the sexiest. This mid-20s knockout is the girlfriend of NASCAR’s Denny Hamlin.
Jordan is a former member of the Charlotte Bobcats dance pack and she now is head cheerleader for the No. 11 FedEx Toyota car for Joe Gibbs Racing. They met while she was dancing in front of him at a Bobcats game. They started dating a few years later after Jordan needed sponsorship for the Miss South Carolina USA pageant.
Jordan resembles the perfect American girl with her flowing brown hair, beautiful eyes and sexy curves.
The race for IndyCar's driver’s championship will be the story line for the MAVTV 500 in Fontana this weekend. Target Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon leads Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves by 25 points heading into the event. It’s the first time this year Dixon has found himself leading the championship and he will be fighting tooth and nail to secure his third driver’s title.
The final race of the year always seems to have new faces on the grid, but one face this weekend you might be familiar with is England’s Pippa Mann, the part-time driver for the #18 Dale Coyne Racing car. Pippa is best known for being the first British woman to ever qualify for the Indianapolis 500 back in 2011.
This will be Pippa’s fourth race for Dale Coyne and she hopes to improve on her 15th place finish at the Pocono IndyCar 400, earlier this year. She’s actually improved every time out this year, so hopefully for her sake that trend continues.
Dale Coyne Racing has turned Pippa into an oval specialist by sharing the second car with fellow-Brit Mike Conway starting at the doubleheader in Detroit. It’s a perfect match as Conway no longer drives on ovals and Pippa is more than happy to take on that role.
Her sponsor for the 2013 season has been Cyclops Gear and it’s hard not to catch her wearing a pair of them. They are sports-shaped sunglasses that work as a video and still camera well-suited to film you in action either going down the ski slopes, surfing in the water, or biking through some outdoor trails. What we all would really love is to capture her Fontana race through those glasses, but safety first!
It will be Pippa’s first start at Fontana, but she’s eager to make a statement and solidify a ride for the 2014 IndyCar campaign.
To gain a more up-close and personal look into the world of Pippa Mann, here are some questions and answers that will help you get to know her better.
Born: London, England
Residence: Indianapolis, Indiana
First street car: Peugeot 206
Car that you drive: an Audi A3
Longest road trip taken: Indianapolis to St. Pete. It was the sacrifices you make to do IndyLights TV
Pets: I don’t have any, but I love dogs
List of favourites:
Vacation Spot: Tahiti
Sports team: Indianapolis Colts
Movies: It depends what side of the bed I’m on. There’s so many to choose from. Let’s say Pretty Woman, Twilight and Top Gun
Race track: For an oval it has to be the Indianapolis 500 and for a road course it would be Sonoma
Racing memory: Qualifying for the 2011 Indianapolis 500 with Conquest Racing
Driver growing-up: Nigel Mansell
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- With a chance to start over and maybe drive in any series he wanted, Juan Pablo Montoya thought long and hard about what mattered most at this stage of his career.
The answer was simple: Winning.
So when a team owner synonymous with winning put an offer in front of him, Montoya snapped at the opportunity. He'll leave NASCAR behind for a return to open-wheel to drive for Roger Penske - the IndyCar Series rival of Montoya's longtime boss, Chip Ganassi.
"He's very excited for me," Montoya said Monday after texting with Ganassi, who is in Europe. "Something that we have with Chip is that we're very good friends. We have a lot of respect for each other. He had to make a decision this year to go in a different direction. I had to do the same thing. I had an opportunity and a great chance with Penske. We're going to be competitors and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Ganassi decided in August not to bring Montoya back next year to his NASCAR program. It put the Colombian on the free agent market, and even though Ganassi has said he'd not ruled out using Montoya in his other programs, Montoya considered everything.
He spoke with Michael Andretti about an IndyCar ride, and Furniture Row Racing about replacing Kurt Busch at the end of the NASCAR season. There were calls to Europe, and a new rumor about a possible test with Lotus in Formula One.
Then came discussions with Penske and all bets were off with the other teams. Montoya will team next season with current IndyCar points leader Helio Castroneves and Will Power while driving for Penske, winner of 15 Indianapolis 500s. He could also drive in some NASCAR races as part of the deal.
"My No. 1 choice was going to be in a winning car. I really wanted to be in a winning car," he said. "It came down to I wanted to race for Roger. In a way it's always been one of my dreams to be able to be part of his organization. Being here, it's unbelievable. I'm so excited. I'm like a 5-year-old kid right now."
Some could also consider the move a big piece of gamesmanship in the racing rivalry that spans two series between Ganassi and Penske. Castroneves and Ganassi driver Scott Dixon are currently locked in a fierce battle for the title, and the competition has heated up over the last two races as Dixon has been involved in incidents with Power and the Penske organization.
"He's a great driver and deserves a great drive," Ganassi told The Associated Press. "He will have that there at Penske Racing."
Montoya won the 1999 CART title, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 and 11 races driving open-wheel for Ganassi. He then moved to Formula One, where he had seven wins and 30 podiums, before reuniting with Ganassi again in 2006 to compete in NASCAR.
But results in NASCAR have been sporadic. Montoya has just two wins in 244 career starts and his best season finish was eighth in 2009. He's 20th in the standings this season.
The program has been through several rebuilds since Montoya came aboard, and it was a middle-of-the-road organization when he signed on in 2006.
Their first NASCAR season was decent and gave the organization a boost with a win on the road course at Sonoma, six top-10s and rookie of the year in 2007. But 2008 was the first sign of trouble as Montoya had two crew chief changes in the first 16 races.
Montoya made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in 2009 with crew chief Brian Pattie behind a career-best 18 top-10s, and he was third in points with six races to go in the season before fading to eighth in the final standings.
He won on the road course at Watkins Glen in 2010, but Pattie was let go before Indianapolis in 2011 for Montoya's fourth crew chief change. The Ganassi team began another overhaul that winter and Chris Heroy was hired as Montoya's fifth crew chief before 2012. That entire season was spent trying to get the Ganassi cars up to speed.
With the hiring, Montoya is now stuck in the middle of a spat between Penske and Ganassi drivers over in IndyCar.
Ganassi driver Dixon was penalized in Sonoma when his car made contact with a crew member for Power, Castroneves' teammate, on the final pit stop. IndyCar race director Beaux Barfield said Dixon had driven into the Penske Racing work space, but Dixon alleged the crew member walked into his car.
The penalty cost Dixon a chance to race for the win, and opinion was split through the paddock as to who was at fault and if race control perhaps should not have penalized anyone.
Dixon and Power collided at the next race at Baltimore, and the contact ended Dixon's day when IndyCar officials did not tow his car back to pit lane for repairs. He then said Barfield should be fired, comments that earned him a $30,000 fine from IndyCar.
Montoya said he'll try to stay out of the fray.
"I think I'm going to have a little white flag, I'm going to be very neutral there," Montoya said. "For one side, I'm still committed with Chip and the NASCAR program for the next nine races. But I think it's going to be fun. It's going to be like mixed emotions watching the last few IndyCar races."
MONZA, Italy (AP) -- Sebastian Vettel withstood a tricky start from the pole position to win the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday and take a commanding lead over Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, who finished second.
Vettel locked his tires on the first turn as the Ferrari of Felipe Massa pressured him from behind, but after that the German consolidated his advantage to beat Alonso by 5.4 seconds and Red Bull teammate Mark Webber by 6.3.
"This is the best podium of season, I'm very proud," Vettel said. "We had problems with the gearboxes at the end, but I was OK because I had a good cushion and it was a fantastic win."
Monza is the home race for Ferrari fans and there were loud jeers when Vettel was on the podium.
"You can hear the difference when you don't win here in a red suit, but it means you have done well and beaten the red men (of Ferrari)," Vettel said. "The more booing we get the better we've done today. I don't blame the people to be honest, it's in their genes. They love Ferrari."
With seven races remaining, it looks increasingly likely that Vettel will clinch a fourth straight Formula One title - unless he has an alarming drop in form or Ferrari finds a way to get faster.
"It's a very big gap and we don't have enough races and we don't have the speed now to win consecutive races," Alonso said. "We need to be lucky and we need to have some DNF from Sebastian."
It was Vettel's third career win at Monza - his first was with Toro Rosso in 2008 and then Red Bull in 2011 - his sixth of the season and 32nd overall, moving him even with Alonso's win total.
He was more emotional than usual - pumping his fist several times as he walked up the steps to the podium - and with good reason. He now leads two-time former champion Alonso by 53 points and Lewis Hamilton by 81 with 175 available.
The last driver to win here from anywhere other than the pole was Rubens Barrichello from fifth spot on the grid in 2009, and Alonso never showed he was likely to do that starting from the same position.
"Second place is good, to have this podium ceremony which is the most spectacular podium of the year," Alonso told thousands of his fans. "Hopefully we'll come back next year and have first place."
Vettel shook his head vigorously in celebration and let out his trademark high-pitched whoop as he celebrated his third win in the past four races. Given his tough start, it was more impressive than his dominant performance at the Belgian GP two weeks ago.
"Very good boys, very good race," Vettel yelled over his car radio when he crossed the line. "Sorry for the lock up into the first corner, made the first stint a bit tricky."
Massa finished fourth ahead of German drivers Nico Hulkenberg - a season's best for Sauber - and Nico Rosberg, on a poor day for Mercedes.
There was light rainfall about one hour before the race, but the sunshine returned for the start.
Vettel started from pole for the fourth time this campaign and 40th in his career, but the first since the Canadian GP in June.
He struggled to hold on to the lead after the first turn as Massa boldly passed Hulkenberg and Webber to jump from fourth to second.
Roared on by thousands of flag-waving tifosi, Ferrari had a point to prove and Alonso brilliantly overtook Webber on the outside to move up to third and then zoomed ahead of Massa.
After 10 of 53 laps, Vettel led Alonso by about 5 seconds, but engineers told him that his front right tire had taken some damage on the first turn and Alonso began to shave some time off.
Vettel pitted on lap 24, switching to hard tires, followed shortly by Webber and Massa, but Alonso stayed out on his tires until lap 28 as leading drivers chose a one-stop strategy.
In his last European race before he retires from F1 at the end of the season, Webber got his first podium at Monza.
"Good battle with Fernando," Webber said. "Last time in Monza, so thank you very much."
Lewis Hamilton, starting from 12th after his worst qualifying performance since the Spanish GP in May of last year, finished ninth.
"It is a nightmare weekend for me," Hamilton said.
SPA, Belgium (AP) -- Sebastian Vettel overtook Lewis Hamilton on the first lap and comfortably held on to win the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday and extend his overall championship lead.
It was Vettel's fifth win of the season, the second from three GPs, and 31st of his outstanding career.
Fernando Alonso drove brilliantly from ninth on the grid to take second place ahead of Hamilton and move back into second overall in the title race.
Speculation heading into Spa was of Hamilton emerging as the biggest threat to Vettel's bid for a fourth straight title, but within one minute Vettel dismissed that talk with a slick passing move inside Hamilton's left. The German was never troubled after that.
"When the car works well you don't want the race to stop," Vettel said. "I was very comfortable at the end and the car was just a pleasure to drive."
Vettel started from second on the grid after Hamilton secured his fourth straight pole position.
Vettel, who finished 16.8 seconds ahead of Alonso and nearly 30 ahead of Hamilton, pumped his right fist and then wagged his finger aloft - reminding everyone who really is No. 1 and admonishing those who had doubted him.
"For sure it's a positive message today," Vettel said. "The car was much better than we expected before the race. Looking forward to Monza now."
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg finished fourth ahead of Vettel's Red Bull teammate Mark Webber.
Hamilton become the first Briton since Damon Hill in 1995 to win four straight poles and sat on the front row for the seventh consecutive race and eighth in nine.
Vettel has not secured a pole since winning the Canadian GP in June. But it made little difference. Within one minute he was in front as the much-anticipated rain around the Ardennes forest stayed away.
"I tried my best to line up behind Lewis," Vettel said. "Once I passed him I had incredible pace and took control until the end."
Although Hamilton made a good start and held his line at the first turn into La Source turn, Vettel moved into the slipstream of his Mercedes and surged past him down the Kemmel straight.
"Half-decent start and got a good exit out of turn one. But Sebastian just caught me massively," Hamilton said. "There was no defending really, I just had to watch him glide by."
Alonso, meanwhile, looked like he was on a mission as he carved through the field, zooming past last year's Spa winner Jenson Button and Rosberg to move into third.
"Everything went OK from the start, the car had the speed to overtake some cars," Alonso said. "The weekend was good for us ... We felt more competitive."
After earning a one-race ban for reckless driving at last year's Spa GP, where his dangerous driving sent three drivers off the track at the first turn, Frenchman Romain Grosjean made a noticeably conservative start and seemed desperate to avoid even the slightest contact.
Shortly after, Sergio Perez was given a drive through penalty for forcing Grosjean wide.
"He pushed me completely off the track," said Grosjean, who is trying to repair his reputation after several dangerous driving incidents last season.
Hamilton was the first of the front-runners to pit for new tires, followed by Alonso, but Vettel stayed out three laps longer than Hamilton - who was held up by traffic when he came out, enabling Alonso to move past him into second.
Halfway through the 44-lap circuit - the longest in F1 at 4.352 miles and the most difficult along with Monaco - Vettel led Alonso by more than eight seconds.
Kimi Raikkonen, second overall heading into the race, had to abandon on lap 26 with smoke coming from his front right brake, finishing the Finn's remarkably consistent run of scoring points in 27 consecutive races.
Shortly after, Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado crashed into each other.
The nose of Maldonado's Williams nudged into di Resta's Force India, sending it spinning off the track. Maldonado was given a 10-second stop and go penalty.
Di Resta, the British driver who had high hopes after qualifying in an impressive fifth place, looked disconsolate as he trudged off, helmet in his hand and his race over.
Alonso pitted for the second time shortly after and Vettel made his second tire change a couple of minutes later.
Before the race, protesters from the environmental group Greenpeace staged a brief demonstration against race sponsor Shell's plans to drill in the Arctic.
Two paragliders flew over the circuit, trailing a banner, and others then climbed onto the grandstand roof and unfurled a 20-meter long banner that read "ARCTIC OIL? SHELL NO!"
Michael Andretti is trying to find a sponsor to bring Juan Pablo Montoya back to IndyCar with Andretti Autosport.
"I have talked to Juan about IndyCar and told him `Hell yeah, let's find a way to put something together,' " Andretti told The Associated Press on Monday. "I've driven against him and I think he's one of the best drivers I've ever driven against. It just comes down to sponsorship. So we're looking, and if it's a possibility, we want to do something with him."
Andretti only had conversations with Montoya last week after the Colombian learned from Chip Ganassi that he wouldn't be re-signed to Ganassi's NASCAR team for an eighth season. Montoya has been out of open wheel racing since he left Formula One in 2006 to rejoin Ganassi in NASCAR, and he's not ruling out any series now that he's looking for work.
He told AP on Monday a return to IndyCar isn't out of the question, but wouldn't reveal what teams he's spoken to so far.
Montoya won 11 races in 1999 and 2000 in CART driving for Ganassi, including the 1999 CART championship and the 2000 Indianapolis 500. Montoya and Andretti raced against each other those two seasons, with Andretti winning three races in that span. The two waged one of the most memorable battles in series history, with Montoya coming out on top as the two nearly banged wheels racing side-by-side at 230 mph to the finish line at Michigan International Speedway in 2000.
Andretti believes that Montoya's return to IndyCar would be a huge lift for the series.
"I think he could bring what he brought the last time - it seemed like when he raced, half the stands were full of flags supporting him," Andretti said. "When he first got to NASCAR, he had a huge effect there. He brings a huge crowd, a huge support. He's a big personality, and he could be a good personality for IndyCar because he definitely has that `don't give a (crap) attitude.' "
Where Montoya fits into the Andretti lineup remains to be seen because the marketing arm is still working behind the scenes to finalize the 2014 lineup.
The biggest piece of the puzzle is James Hinchcliffe, a three-time IndyCar winner this season and breakthrough star in the final year of his two-year deal. Andretti Autosport much wants Hinchcliffe back, but an offer is contingent on a commitment from sponsor GoDaddy.
While Andretti waits, Hinchcliffe is currently free to negotiate with other teams in the paddock.
"It's all going to come down to GoDaddy and if they are going to play or not. They love Hinch, we love Hinch, but GoDaddy needs to decide if the return on their investment is there or not," Andretti said. "So we're just waiting and Hinch is allowed to be talking to other teams. He's not said that he wants to leave, but it's only fair for him to be allowed to see what's out there because we don't want him to be left with nothing. That's not fair to him, that's not fair to the series."
Hinchcliffe's deal is not tied to Andretti working out a deal with Montoya, he said.
"There's still a possibility of running five cars," Andretti said. "I think we can do it no problem, so long as we have a properly funded deal."
The organization is also still trying to put together a deal for next season with Carlos Munoz, the Colombian who grew up a Montoya fan and finished second in the Indianapolis 500 in his IndyCar debut. He doesn't have a deal yet in place for 2014 with E.J. Viso.
"We have a lot of irons in the fire," Andretti said. "If a sponsor falls out of the sky for Juan, then we don't know what we'd do to make it all work."