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Juan Pablo Montoya hopes Pocono can get him back on the right track

Firestone 600 - Practice

Juan Pablo Montoya hasn’t been smiling much of late, given his struggles over four of the last five races.

Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway

If anyone needs a mulligan this season in the Verizon IndyCar Series, it’s Juan Pablo Montoya.

Not just for a race or two, but for nearly half of the first 12 races that have played out thus far in 2016.

The Colombian racing veteran started 2016 in great fashion, winning at St. Petersburg for the second consecutive year.

But ever since finishing last in the Indianapolis 500, it’s been all downhill from there for JPM.

Montoya is hoping to put an end to a slide that has seen him drop from first to 12th (the lowest he’s been has been 13th, after Toronto) in the standings.

It’s been especially rough the last five races. Montoya finished 20th in Belle Isle 2, jumped up to seventh at Elkhart Lake, had two additional back-to-back 20th place finishes at Iowa and Toronto and was 11th in the most recent IndyCar race two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio.

Any hope of a championship is all but conceded. Now, he’ll be lucky to finish the season in the top 10.

Worst yet, unless his performance and ranking in the standings improve, Montoya is on target to record his worst season finish ever in open-wheel racing – including CART, Formula One and IndyCar. His previous worst season was ninth in his final season in CART in 2000 (and was eighth in his final F1 season in 2006).

“This season has been as frustrating as I can remember,” Montoya said. “We’ve had a good car pretty much everywhere, but we’re not getting the results for one reason or another.”

That’s why Montoya, who turns 41 on Sept. 20, hopes he can still salvage somewhat of an end-of-season turnaround in the final four races of the 2016 campaign, starting with this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.

He couldn’t pick a better place: He won there in 2014 and finished third in last season’s race, which was marred by the tragic death of Justin Wilson in a racing accident.

And given Montoya is 19 points out of 10th place (Charlie Kimball) and 58 points out of fifth place (tie, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan), he still has hope a good run at Pocono could help him start a climb back upward in the standings.

“Pocono has been good to us the last couple of years,” Montoya said. “I hope it brings some good luck. The Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet team definitely needs some of that right now.

“Pocono is great track for IndyCar with a lot of opportunities to make things happen. It would be nice to finish the season strong.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski