15 years later and Montoya is still just as formidable

Few can take a 14 year hiatus from a racing discipline and come back just as good (or maybe better) than they were before.

In terms of versatility, I will stand in support of the argument that Juan Pablo Montoya is one of the greatest racers of his time.

Formula 1 career breakdown

As a Formula 1 driver, his aggression got him into trouble on more than one occasion, but when he kept his nose clean, the end result was almost always up towards the front. Strip away his 30 DNFs, three disqualifications, and one DNS and you are left with 60 Grands Prix. In those 60 races, he amassed seven victories, 30 podiums, 43 top five finishes, and 13 poles. By the way, the 2003 Monaco GP is among those wins.

NASCAR Sprint Cup career breakdown

Most will find his two NASCAR Sprint Cup wins, 24 top fives, 59 top tens, and nine poles in 255 starts rather dull and unimpressive. However, I look at those numbers in quite a different way and always have. He came from an open-wheel background with no notable experience as a stock car driver before making the transition that so many other open-wheel greats have failed to do.

Yet, he is responsible for 33% of Chip Ganassi's Sprint Cup wins, 30% of the team's top fives, 29% of their top tens and nine of the ten poles they've seen in their 14 year existence. Ganassi is not quite the top tier organization that they are known for being on the IndyCar and TUDOR side, but JPM got the most out of that equipment. Oh, and don't forget - He earned Ganassi their one and only Chase Berth in 2009.

As he prepared to depart from NASCAR, CGR started to be a bit more competitive and in that final year (2013), Montoya came within arm's reach of oval wins in multiple races, most notable at Richmond and Dover.

The most impressive statistic of all

And of course, he won seven races in his first year racing CART en route to the championship, followed up by winning the Indy 500 in his first ever start in the race. No further details are needed to understand those accomplishments.

In my opinion though, the most striking thing of all has to be this - He left American open-wheel competition in October of 2000 to pursue a career in Formula 1 and NASCAR, spending eight full years as a stock car driver. 14 years later, he returned and placed fourth in the standings in his comeback season in the most competitive era in series history. In 2015, he's already won two races - Including this past weekend's Indianapolis 500.

His ability to be absent from the series for so many years and yet, perform as if he never left upon returning is the most impressive and astounding fact of all.

Different decade, same result

At 23 years old, he beat the likes of Dario Franchitti, Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy, Max Papis, and Adrian Fernandez. Now, on the verge of turning 40, he comes back and is defeating the likes of Scott Dixon, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Sebastien Bourdais, and Simon Pagenaud on a weekly basis. Marcos Ambrose failed to do the same after going back to V8 Supercars this year, following eight years where he raced only NASCAR.

Montoya, who has just eight professional sports car starts, has also won the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona on three occasions.

Juan Pablo Montoya is certainly in a league of his own.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Formula 1 , NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Article type Analysis