January 15, 2014 | By Tom Surber
Team Penske, Second Shot At Indy 500 Energizes Montoya
A season of change is in the offing for 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya in 2014.
Montoya will return to North American open-wheel racing for the first time since 2000 as he drives the No. 2 Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet for Team Penske in the IndyCar Series, starting with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 30. He will join three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and Will Power at Team Penske.
Colombian Montoya will face stiff competition from within his team as he tries to win the Indianapolis 500 for the second time Sunday, May 25.
“In just looking within the team you have Helio, who nearly won the championship, and you have Will, that has a lot of natural speed,” Montoya said. “I feel like I’m a very good component to the team, and I think if we can work together we can bring Team Penske to victory lane quite often.
“It’s been amazing, they’re an unbelievable team. I was talking to (Gil) de Ferran (2003 Indy 500 winner) the other day and he said to me, ‘You would not believe the way they’re going to treat you and the way that things are and how different they are.’ You think he’s exaggerating, but he’s not. They really care for the drivers. They really make sure you get everything you need to get the job done, and that’s awesome to have.”
One of the most accomplished drivers in the world, Montoya’s career highlights include race wins in Formula One, NASCAR, CART, IndyCar Series. He is the only driver to produce victories in the Indianapolis 500, the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Monaco Grand Prix. Montoya earned 11 wins over two seasons of North American open-wheel racing as he captured the CART title in his rookie season of 1999 followed by his victory as a rookie in the 2000 Indianapolis 500, qualifying second and leading 167 of 200 laps. He was the first rookie to win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” since Graham Hill in 1966.
“I never really thought I’d be back here and try to get another (Indianapolis 500) win, so I’m excited,” Montoya said. “Every year you come here and you’re not in an IndyCar it’s cool, but it’s not the same. It’s fun and everything, but it’s not the Indy 500.”
Although Montoya has a wealth of IndyCar racing experience, he last raced in open-wheel cars in 2006, with McLaren in Formula One. He then raced stock cars for Ganassi in NASCAR Sprint Cup from 2007-13. So he’s starting anew, in many ways.
“I do feel like a rookie again, and it’s funny because people don’t realize that,” Montoya said. “I know that a lot of drivers were complaining about how much testing I got from INDYCAR, but it’s so different. If you would see what I went through to get up to speed, and it’s hard to know how well up to speed I am because I’ve been running by myself. When you run by yourself, yeah, you run laps and you get practice and you get ready, but how ready I am, we’ll see.
“We’re testing this Friday (at Sebring) with all the cars at like a Chevy test, so I’ll get a bit more of an idea of how much more I need to get out of the car.
“The car drives really well, and the braking is unbelievable. It’s fun to drive, and things are still happening too fast, to be honest with you, and that’s what I got to work on, to get things to slow down a little bit.”
Montoya and his fellow IndyCar Series drivers will race on the newly revamped IMS road course during the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday, May 10. Thanks to his six starts in the United States Grand Prix Formula One race at IMS from 2001-06, with a best finish of fourth in 2002, Montoya has more experience in open-wheel road racing at IMS than all of his IndyCar competitors.
“There have been some changes to the track, so I think it’s going to be a little bit different, but it should be a hell of a racetrack,” Montoya said. “I think it’s exciting for the fans. The fans with IndyCar, they get to see the cars, they get to enjoy the cars, and the drivers and autograph sessions and everything, so I think it’s going to be a little better.”
2014 ticket information: Ticket information is available for the four events in 2014 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, 98th Indianapolis 500, Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard and Red Bull Indianapolis GP.
Fans can order tickets at www.ims.com/tickets, by calling 800-822-INDY or 317-492-6700 between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or by visiting the IMS Ticket Office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday.
Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are available. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at 866-0221-8775 for more information.