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, and 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 said.
Munoz preferred to be sticking in Houston for Sunday’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 said. “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.”