IRL: Indy500: Montoya an easy choice as Bank One Rookie of the Year

INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 28, 2000 - Juan Montoya of Colombia did something on Sunday that even the great Graham Hill couldn't when the two-time World Champion won the Indianapolis 500. Montoya was the overwhelming choice as the...

INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 28, 2000 - Juan Montoya of Colombia did something on Sunday that even the great Graham Hill couldn't when the two-time World Champion won the Indianapolis 500. Montoya was the overwhelming choice as the Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of Year after a dominant victory in the race. He was selected by a panel of veteran race observers and receives a $25,000 check and trophy from Bank One. It was, as the Einstein actor in the Pepsi TV commercial says, a no-brainer. The 24-year-old driver of the red Chip Ganassi-owned Target G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone started in the middle of the front row. Then in the race he so dominated that he led 167 laps, most by a driver since Mario Andretti led 170 in 1987 before falling to ninth at the finish. Hill won in 1966, the last rookie to triumph before Montoya. But sixth-place finisher Jackie Stewart was named top rookie in that race. Stewart led 40 laps to 10 for Hill, but an oil-pressure problem near the end dropped him back. Besides Montoya and Hill, other first-time participants who won the "500" were Ray Harroun (1911), Jules Goux (1913), Rene Thomas (1914), Frank Lockhart (1926) and George Souders (1927). The Rookie of the Year award began in 1952, with Art Cross as the first winner. Montoya is the 16th foreign-born driver to win top rookie honors. Behind Montoya, the next-highest finishing rookie was Jaques Lazier in 13th. Other competing rookies were Jason Leffler (17th), Sam Hornish Jr. (24th), Airton Dare (25th), Andy Hillenburg (28th) and Sarah Fisher (31st). Lazier and Leffler were still running at the finish. Montoya was chosen by Ganassi to replace Alex Zanardi after a visit with him in Barcelona, Spain, in the fall of 1998. Montoya was a Formula One test driver for Williams. He immediately won the CART championship last year, tying Dario Franchitti in points with 212 but getting the tiebreaker with seven victories. He also won seven poles. His opportunity to drive in the Indianapolis 500 came this year when Ganassi decided to enter a two-car team in the race after CART opened Memorial Day weekend on its schedule. But the April race at Nazareth, Pa., was snowed out and run on Saturday, the day before the "500." Montoya started from the pole in that 225-miler and finished fourth.

-IRMLS/IMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jason Leffler , Sarah Fisher , Airton Daré , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Jackie Stewart , Andy Hillenburg , Jules Goux , René Thomas , Chip Ganassi , Graham Hill , Sam Hornish Jr. , Jaques Lazier
Teams Williams