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Montoya’s surprise move to IndyCar

Everyone was caught by surprise with Roger Penske’s announcement on Monday that Juan Pablo Montoya will join his IndyCar team next year in a three-car attack with current drivers Hélio Castroneves and Will Power. Many rumours have circulated about Montoya’s future after he became a free agent a month and half ago, but none of the speculation featured Penske.

indycar  Montoyas surprise move to IndyCar

‘The Captain’ quietly jumped into the game in recent weeks and has made a deal with Montoya without any sponsorship commitments, although you can be sure Roger will put together a nice package of sponsors for Montoya and his number two Dallara-Chevrolet by the time the 2014 season gets underway.

Team Penske’s president Tim Cindric said the conversation with Montoya started at last month’s Michigan NASCAR race. “There wasn’t a lot of discussion about it because it all came together pretty quick,” Cindric said. “I think Juan and I actually ran into each other on the grid in Michigan and you know, it was as simple as, ‘Hey, I heard you’re not with the #42. What are you up to?’

“He said ‘Not sure.’ And I said, ‘We ought to put you in that IndyCar sometime.’ And he said, ‘Let’s talk about it.’ From then on, it was kind of casual conversation and it turned into the real deal. That’s really how we started and how we ended up here today.”

indycar  Montoyas surprise move to IndyCar
Montoya at Long Beach in 1999, his maiden CART win

Montoya says once he started talking to Penske and Cindric he wasn’t interested any of the other deals offered him in NASCAR or IndyCar. “If you really dream of any ideal position for a driver, and you could say you could race for Penske, I think that would be number one,” Juan remarked. “When this opportunity came around, you didn’t even have to think about it. It was something that was a great opportunity. I had a lot of opportunities, not only in NASCAR, but in open‑wheel. But when you look at everything, I said when I first became a free agent, I said, I want a winning car. And they don’t come any better than Penske Racing.

“It came down to wanting to race for Roger. It’s always been one of my dreams to be able to be part of this organisation. And being here, it’s unbelievable. I’m just so excited. I can’t believe it. I’m like a five‑year‑old kid right now.

“Having Helio and Will as team-mates, two great guys – one is leading the championship and the other guy has so much speed and so much potential that between them, I think they can help me a lot get up to speed.

indycar  Montoyas surprise move to IndyCar
Montoya passes Tony Kanaan on his way to victory at Chicago in 1999, his sixth of seven that year

“You have to remember, I’ve been out of open‑wheel cars for a while, so I’m going to have to get up to speed with everything again, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

It’s been a long, strange trip for Montoya from making his mark in CART in 1999 and 2000 and winning the Indy 500 in 2000 to a mercurial career in Formula 1 with Williams and McLaren followed by a surprise move to NASCAR with old friend Chip Ganassi and now an equally surprising move back to what is now known as IndyCar. Juan believes his seven years’ experience in NASCAR will serve him well in his return to open-wheel cars.

“I think having the seven years of NASCAR and then my open‑wheel experience before that, I’m pretty excited about going to the ovals,” JPM said. “The one you want to win, it’s an oval. You want to win the Indy 500. I’m excited about that. I have the opportunity to be in the car at Indy and I think with Penske it is going to be huge.

indycar  Montoyas surprise move to IndyCar

“I think NASCAR has been a great experience for me. It made me a lot better driver. I learned things that I think if I would have stayed in open‑wheel I would never have learned. You become a lot smarter driver.”

Some people say Montoya is too old (he turns 38 on Friday) and too tubby to beat today’s young IndyCar drivers. Juan says he’s fully aware of what he needs to do and has already stepped up his training in order to tackle his return to open-wheel cars.

“The conditioning is a big part of it and since the moment I became a free agent, I wanted the opportunity in open‑wheel and I’ve been training really hard,” he said. “I know I have a long way to go to where I want to be. I know what it takes to be in the shape that you need to be in to win and be a champion. So I’m working towards that goal, and the good thing is that we’ve got a lot of time until the first race, so I’ve got a lot of time to prepare myself physically and mentally for it.

indycar  Montoyas surprise move to IndyCar

“I want more success,” Juan added. “I want to win races. I know that it’s going to be an uphill battle mentally, physically, and learning everything again. But I have no doubt in my mind that I can do it.”

Montoya is sure to bring some added spark to Penske’s team next year. He’ll also bring some much-needed interest and excitement to IndyCar. It should be intriguing to watch.

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indycar  Montoyas surprise move to IndyCar

Add your comments

22 comments on Montoya’s surprise move to IndyCar

  1. Tim, 17 September 2013 10:51

    Can’t see this working – but I may be wrong…

  2. Known as Iberian, 17 September 2013 11:22

    I like the vintage mobile phone in the last pic, awesome.

    And hopefully Monty can rock the IndyKids scene next year. Could be a bit of a Schumi’s 2nd coming and going but we’ll wait and see.

  3. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 17 September 2013 13:39

    I look at that pic up there of Juan Pablo and, then, I cast my mind’s eye to what a Formula One contemporary of his – Mark Webber, same age – looks like and I wonder what happened.

    It’s alarming. And, unfortunately, a touch sad.

    Webber looks razor sharp these days – an Adonis…And, can still give his tripple World Champion teammate – 10 years his junior no less – a serious run for his money in qualifying and races more often than not.

    Montoya, by comparison, looks way, WAY too chunky. What happened?

    I suspect too many trips to the cheeseburger counter with extra helpings of fries and shakes with the children?

    I’m sure his wife is over the moon that Juan Pablo is going to start hitting the gym and get back into proper shape.

    NASCAR is quite competitive – so, if you want to win races (and stay mainly in America), I suspect it’s his best move to race IndyCars for Penske.

    I watched Baltimore and was alarmed by the clumsiness of the moves: Amatuer hour and no semblence of spatial awareness. Perhaps Montoya will bring some badly needed experience and mature driving etiquette to the series, along with his fan base.

    I wish him the best.

    I used to love the way he needled, irritated and rattled the Schumachers circa 2001-2004. And felt bad for him that he hurt himself fooling around on motorbikes (i.e. “playing tennis” Aha ha!) which probably didn’t endear him to Ron Dennis or help him vs a fast Raikkonen.

    Somewhow I thought his future lay at Le Mans.

    I was wrong. For now.

  4. IM, 17 September 2013 15:10

    It’s still a move from one spec car series to another. Look at the cars in the photos accompanying the article and compare them to the junk they race today. They HAVE to get back to proper technical competition of Indycar is dead.

  5. Dave Cubbedge, 17 September 2013 16:04

    Iberian, that’s a stopwatch, not a phone.

    Great news for Indycars, I have no doubts he will be a factor in 2014.

    My Indycar cup is half full today, not half-empty like the rest of you. is it perfect? No. Great? Not always. Affordable for fans? Yes. See y’all at Indy!!!

  6. Rich Ambroson, 17 September 2013 16:09

    Hope Monty wins another one at Indy!

  7. JSaviano, 17 September 2013 17:11

    Too bad he didn’t have success in NASCAR. F1 lost when he left. He couldn’t deal with the political double-dealing. When the FIA ruined his championship run with Williams by changing the tire rules, then silly penalty after penalty, he’d had enough. A real loss to F1. Was he a “Great?” No, but a damn good racer. He’ll do fine in Indycar. Will it make me really interested? No, but I’ll watch when I can.

  8. Rob, 17 September 2013 17:46

    They still have indycar racing?

    Who knew? ;-)

    Montoya – hugely over rated then and now just a (vast) shadow of his former self.

  9. Rich Ambroson, 17 September 2013 18:58

    Rob, did you see the CART race at the Gateway oval where JPM was dirt tracking that super race car around? Not overrated at all.

  10. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 17 September 2013 20:27

    I don’t know if “hugely over rated then” is the quite the words to use, i.m.o.

    Ralf Schumacher deserved that moniker, I think. And, basically, Juan ‘outed’ Ralf at Williams-BMW in 2003 when they had a championship-winning car but didn’t have the consistency (in the case of JPM) or the talent (in the case of Ralf) to pull a WDC out of the bag, even in the face of machinations on the part of Ferrari and the FIA.

    I think if Shumi or Kimi were driving that 2003 Williams-BMW, the championship would have fallen to the English team.

    Anyway, 2001 proved that Montoya was a potential Schumacher-beater. He was certainly balsy enough to at least try and take on Shuey straight up. The potential was huge but, sadly, went unfulfilled.

    Hakkinen was retiring, JV was floundering at BAR and Jenson had playboy fever. So, Juan had real a chance to establish himself in a big way.

    I do think JPM was correctly rated circa 1999-2002 and could have won the 2003 WDC if not for his own mistakes and also the FIA-Ferrari Axis shafting the Michelin runners and the FIA-Ferrari Axis shafting him at Indianapolis.

    Then, Kimi and Alonso began to take over and Juan Pable didn’t seem like he had the motivation – or the consistency – to go with his natural ability (which was considerable.)

    Again, good luck to him and I hope he keeps the discipline at the gym.

  11. Bill, 17 September 2013 21:09

    Montoya has won enough kudo’s with me to count me as an eternal fan of his. I dont care about his less than impressive NASCAR career. He was great in F1, nearly beat Schumacher over a season and a very open and honest character in general.
    Lets hope he can show some sparks next season.

  12. Dave Cubbedge, 18 September 2013 00:24

    I’m with you Bill on this, I remember JPMs pass of Schoo in Brazil ’01 (I think) and that is all it took to make me a believer. His F1 career didn’t live up to the hype unfortunately, but he is one of the good guys for sure, very good with his legions of fans over here! Indy next year is going to be awfully colorful with the Columbian fans waving their flags and generally going bonkers!

  13. Richard Sellers, 18 September 2013 11:58

    Following the news of his Ganassi departure, it had crossed my mind that following his success at the Daytona 24 hours in recent years, that perhaps Porsche might pick him up for their world sportscar programme next year as a big name signing with 24 hour race wins. But then I read a subsequent article regarding his opinion of Porsche road cars… Needless to say, he didn’t rate them! In typical JPM style, he certainly didn’t win any friends at Zuffenhausen. What a shame.

    Like Alonso, in F1 he had an aggressive and unpredictable way of driving that is often so good to watch. I think he was one of those drivers who needed to be loved by his team and I don’t think either Williams or McLaren got the best out of him. F1 lost a real character and a ballsy driver when he left.

  14. Bill, 18 September 2013 16:03

    Montoya, 5 years in F1, 13 poles. Thats more than Mark Webber, who drove a really great car the last 4 years, Gerhard berger, or DC, who drove for 14 years in f1, 12 of those in Newey cars.

    And if he means contemporary Porsches, im all with him. If it aint air cooled, its not a Porsche imo.

    A nice 1966 911 2.0 lap around Spa, oversteer heaven:

    Awesome car control. Montoya would approve.

  15. The Original Ray T, 18 September 2013 19:18

    “Montoya, by comparison, looks way, WAY too chunky. What happened?”

    North Carolina Pit Barbeque happened. Fitness has always been a problem with Montoya, I don’t see him in Indycar. Too late.
    I can see why he is doing this, NASCAR is not about driver skill, he never fit into NASCAR.

  16. Mario Pizzi, 18 September 2013 20:57

    Wow so I thought NASCAR was the greatest series ever, better than F1. In the end he was just another fat NASCAR driver. Wonder how he is going to fit into a single seater. Will have to cut out the McDonald’s from the diet.

  17. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 19 September 2013 12:54

    Well, everyone making fun of Montoya for being a bit too chunky should know that he has probably collected more than US $ 50 Million from his NASCAR pursuits since getting fired from McLaren/leaving Formula 1 in mid 2006.

    I’m sure that kind spare change will allow him to get a decent nutritionist, a chef who can make delicious, heathly meals for him and a very good personal trainer.

    All Juan Pablo needs to do is have some discipline – and take a lot fewer trips to McDonalds or North Carolina Pit Barbeque or whatever…

  18. Hotdogger, 21 September 2013 07:38

    I have to laugh at people that make fun of fat drivers. I guess guys like Fangio and Ascari were jokes too, eh?

  19. Hotdogger, 21 September 2013 07:40

    Just for the record, my point is that driving skill and fitness are totally different things. A big, heavy stock car doesn’t beat you down as much as a light open wheeler (though it certainly cooks you more) but driving it on the limit is no easier (if not more difficult due to the low downforce, high power and skinny tires).

  20. Tiger Al, 23 September 2013 03:11

    Right on, Hotdogger. And talent aside, I don’t think Montoya ever really got NASCAR. He didn’t know when to push, or when to go with the flow; I think the other drivers lost patience with him.

  21. Terry Jacob, 24 September 2013 13:34

    Don’t see this working . Truth be told I’d rather see Tony Stewart take another crack with IndyCars , I’m sure the passion is there to make it work . Montoya , passion ???…….Hm, don’t knows that it’s there .

  22. Maloyo, 28 September 2013 17:42

    Love Montoya, he made me watch NASCAR again (I quit after they acted so badly when Dale Sr was killed) but no power on earth will get this CART fan to watch the current version of IndyCar. Be safe, Juan Pablo, but a pox on all their houses.

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