Juan Pablo Montoya will make history when he takes the green flag for Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard by becoming the first person to compete in all three major events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Montoya first raced at the historic...
Juan Pablo Montoya will make history when he takes the green flag for Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard by becoming the first person to compete in all three major events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Montoya first raced at the historic oval in 2000 when he won the Indianapolis 500 with Target Ganassi Racing. From 2001 through 2006, Montoya competed in Formula One, four years with Williams BMW and the final two years with McLaren Mercedes. His best finish in the United States Grand Prix came in his sophomore year in Formula One when he finished 4th.
"With the F1 program, we came here and had two or three chances to win the race and always broke down," said Montoya.
Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 in his first appearance at the track in his first time driving an IndyCar Series car. The young Columbian, who was racing in the CART series at the time, came across as smug when he arrived at the Speedway. Addressing the media before his first stock car at Indianapolis, Montoya said, "I don't think we were that confident," a comment that brought laughter from the gathered media. "I thought we would have a chance," he continued. "I don't think we were like, 'We are going to kick everybody's ass.'
"Looking back on it, it is good to say that I won it. It's a 'been there, done that' type of deal, and it was great for my career."
Montoya's car owner Chip Ganassi saw the Indy 500 victory as a great accomplishment. The team had been competing in the CART series, running at Indianapolis as a single race effort.
When a spring CART race at Nazareth, Pennsylvania was snowed out, the rescheduled race was run on the Saturday before the 500. "We actually should have won two races that weekend," said Ganassi.
Now Montoya faces a new challenge, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and a return to the relatively flat Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"The Formula One circuit was pretty straightforward. With the IRL cars, it was a really fast oval and pretty flat, but that's what I drove every week. Coming here, I don't know. I've been asking people what they think and where they brake. That's the kind of thing I try to ask before going out. You just go out and see what you can do."
Montoya's experiences in the NEXTEL Cup series have been a mixed bag. "There are weeks when the car is good and we're competitive," Montoya said. "Then there are weeks when you say, 'What happened?'"
Ganassi says Montoya's development in the Cup series is "right on, if not a little ahead of the plan. He finished 16th or 17th on the lead lap at Martinsville in his first time at that track. Go over to the garage area and ask anyone and they'll tell you that's a superhuman feat."
Montoya scored his first Cup victory five weeks ago on the road course at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. "We've put him in three different cars and he's won in each one," said Ganassi. "Starting back in February at the 24 Hours of Daytona, then he won a Busch race and now he's won in Cup. Now we have to get him a win on an oval."
Both Ganassi and Montoya agreed, the team has come a long way and it still has a long way to go. "If the season ended tomorrow," said Ganassi, "I'd tell you we had a good year."