Only one driver has celebrated winning the Triple Crown of IndyCar in the same calendar year. Juan Pablo Montoya will try to stay in contention for the sweep when he races Saturday at Auto Club Speedway in California.
Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 in May, the first of three 500-mile races on the IndyCar calendar. Up next is the 250-lap race in Fontana, California, and then the 200-lap race at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 23.
Al Unser is the only driver to have won the Triple Crown, and he did it 1978 by winning Indianapolis, Pocono and at Ontario, California. That was the same year Affirmed won horse racing's Triple Crown — and American Pharaoh became the first horse to duplicate the feat since earlier this month.
Montoya, the current IndyCar points leader, doesn't put much stock in the similarities. But he's rested after a week off from racing and eager to get to California.
"Now that we had an off weekend to catch our breath and regroup, I am happy with where we are as we head into the final six races of the year," he said. "We've been able to mix in a lot of consistency with our two wins, but we need to get at least one more before the end of the year. Fontana and Pocono would be great tracks to do that for the Triple Crown."
The Triple Crown series was part of Indy car racing from 1971 until 1980. After Ontario closed in 1980, it was replaced by Michigan International Speedway and the Triple Crown continued until 1989. It resumed in 2013 when Pocono was added to the IndyCar schedule.
Montoya won at Pocono last year. He has never won at California.
"The Triple Crown is not something that I really focus on," Montoya said. "Only one team is able to win the Triple Crown this year and it's ours, so that is a cool feeling."
SHELBY GT350R-C DEBUT: Ford will debut its new Shelby GT350R-C this weekend at Watkins Glen.
The competition version of the iconic car will compete in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, a showdown of performance cars from around the world.
The GT350R production car was unveiled in January, and is one of more than 12 new vehicles Ford Performance will bring to market through 2020.
"Like so many Mustangs before it, the Shelby GT350R is a car born to race," said Dave Pericak, director, Global Ford Performance.
Both production and race car versions feature the first-ever production car V8 from Ford with a flat-plane crankshaft.
Multimatic Motorsports will manage the race team and field drivers Billy Johnson, Scott Maxwell, Austin Cindric and Jade Buford this weekend at Watkins Glen.
"American muscle cars have a storied history in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and we eagerly anticipate the start of a new chapter with introduction of the Shelby GT350R-C," said Scott Atherton, president of IMSA. "Mustang has earned icon status through its racing heritage going back to the competition Mustangs of the 1960s, and this new race car will undoubtedly add to the legend."
NBC LINEUP: NBC Sports Group will return to live coverage of NASCAR next weekend at Daytona International Raceway.
It will be the network's first on-air broadcast of a NASCAR event since 2006, and NBC Sports on Wednesday announced its coverage team.
Rick Allen joins 21-time NASCAR Sprint Cup winning driver Jeff Burton and Daytona 500 champion crew chief Steve Letarte in the broadcast booth.
Krista Voda will sit alongside Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett from an open-air studio located atop pit road at Daytona. Rutledge Wood will present features pieces, while Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Mike Massaro, and Dave Burns will cover pit road during the races.
ESPY'S-BEST DRIVER: Five drivers spanning three series have been nominated for "Best Driver" at the upcoming ESPY Awards.
Among them are Team Penske teammates Will Power and Juan Pablo Montoya. Power was nominated for winning last year's IndyCar championship, while Montoya's victory in the Indianapolis 500 last May earned him the nod.
The award has been won the last two years by IndyCar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay.
"Racing is all I ever wanted to do — to be acknowledged by one of the leaders in the sports world is something that means a lot to me," Power said of the nomination. "Ryan Hunter-Reay brought the award back to IndyCar for the last two years, and I hope I can keep it here."
Also nominated were reigning NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick, reigning Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton and 2014 NHRA Pro Stock Champion Erica Enders-Stevens, who has already been named "Racer of the Year" by Racer Magazine.