Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Racing announced Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway that Team McLaren Mercedes Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya will pilot the No. 42 Dodge starting in 2007. A native of Colombia, Montoya has seven wins and...
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Racing announced Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway that Team McLaren Mercedes Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya will pilot the No. 42 Dodge starting in 2007. A native of Colombia, Montoya has seven wins and 13 poles in Formula One, and will become the first driver to make the switch from F1 to NASCAR.
The highlights of Montoya's racing career include his championship with Ganassi in 1999 when the duo worked together to take the CART (now Champ Car) title with seven victories.
Before joining Ganassi's CART team, JPM earned the FIA International F3000 title. Since then, the F1 racer has notched race wins during his tenure with two teams, he first moved into the cockpit of the BMW-powered Williams team in 2001. The Columbian joined his current McLaren team in 2005.
His current team has already signed defending World Champion Fernando Alonso and was in talks with Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen for their second car. Montoya had already declined an offer from his former team Williams to return.
"I had a couple of options with Formula One and they were completely open for me to sign," said Montoya. "I wanted to be with Chip and as he said we had a lot of success.and to be in America, I can't wait."
Montoya has a history with Ganassi having won 10 races, including the Indianapolis 500. His CART title came under the tutelage of Ganassi. Their relationship is clearly a great one of respect. It took less than an hour for them to broker the multi-year deal.
"It's not about a pay cut or not," said Montoya. "I don't think you are going to be happy getting more money and being miserable all day. I told Chip I wanted to get back to racing. He told me I needed to convince him and I said 'I wanted to be here. It's not about the many millions you're making, three years down the line will you be excited about what you're doing or not?'
"Three years down the line I think I will be very happy."
Montoya may run a handful of Busch series races this year to prepare for his first season of Cup racing. To date, Montoya's only stock car experience came when he and four time NASCAR champ Jeff Gordon switched rides for an exhibition event at Indianapolis in 2003. The 42 team has to make sure that Montoya has enough experience before the close of the season that NASCAR deems his eligible to run the season opening Daytona 500. Ganassi assured that they have a plan in place to make sure he meets NASCAR's eligibility requirements.
"First of all I have to finish my Formula One season," commented Montoya. "When I talked to Chip about coming here I know I drove a road course when I drove Jeff's (Gordon) car. I think I will have decent winter.I want to finished the Formula One season and take it from there. We will do a lot of testing."
The 30-year-old Montoya met with crew members of the No. 42 team Sunday morning at Chicago as well as NASCAR President Mike Helton and several other NASCAR VIP's before meeting with the media to announce his plans.
"I think it is going to be a lot tougher than people think. I think the challenge to drive a cup car is going to be tough," stated Montoya. "I think Chip has great guys on the team and I can't wait to join them."
Casey Mears, who is the current driver of the No. 42 Dodge, announced earlier this season that he is vacating that ride to drive the No. 25 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports.
Ms. Przygodski is currently on assignment at Chicagoland where she attended the press conference. Prior to the announcement at the track, we were able to confirm a leak and posted an earlier story on JPM's switch from F1 to NASCAR.
Please see our breaking news story:
Montoya leaves F1 for NASCAR in 2007
Also please see our F1 Editor's story on the move by Montoya at:
Montoya to return to American racing in 2007