Montoya Is Back Home Again In IndyCar

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 28 2016
Juan Pablo Montoya says driving in the IndyCar Series is where his heart is. (File photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)

Juan Pablo Montoya says driving in the IndyCar Series for Roger Penske is where his heart is. (File photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A few days before Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 the internationally renowned race’s defending champion Juan Pablo Montoya casually sat in the loft of a Charlotte restaurant chatting with about a dozen media members at lunch.

bugindy500The two-time Indy 500 winner was relaxed and obviously happy with his professional and personal life. The edginess that existed during his Formula One years was gone. The frustration that existed during his NASCAR years also was absent. At 40 years old, Montoya is not only excited about racing, he’s “loving” it. He enjoys the sport and is thrilled that ultra-successful team owner Roger Penske added him to his racing stable. In fact, as long as Penske wants the Colombian, retirement isn’t on the horizon.

“He’s such an amazing person,” Montoya said about the 79-year-old Penske as he consumed a steak and whipped potatoes. “You look at him at his age and he has more energy than all of us at this table. It is unbelievable. He is so switched on. Working for him makes it fun and interesting.”

Driving for Team Penske has rekindled Montoya’s passion for racing. He doesn’t miss Formula One, noting he was “just fed up with it.” And the only aspect he misses about NASCAR is running high, against the wall.

“I loved that. You don’t do that in Indy Cars,” Montoya says.

The frankly speaking Montoya has no desire to do the double – compete in the Indianapolis 500 and

Juan Pablo Montoya will attempt to win his second straight Indy 500 this weekend.

Juan Pablo Montoya will attempt to win his second straight Indy 500 this weekend.

the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. However, he admitted he learned a great deal from his nine-year NASCAR stint. It “made me a better driver,” he said.

Now, however, it’s Indy Car that possesses his heart and soul.  

“People who go to NASCAR, it’s a great sport, but there’s so many weeks in a row you don’t realize there’s actually a great life outside of racing,” said the father of three.  “With Indy Car, I have that balance.”

He also has the enviable position of driving for Penske, a car owner whose drivers have won the Indianapolis 500 a record 16 times.

“Roger and the team know how to get the most out of people,” Montoya explained. “He gets the most out of us as drivers. He makes us feel comfortable and at home. He gives us all the tools to win.”

Montoya gave Penske his 16th Borg-Warner Trophy last year and his first trip to victory lane at the storied 2.5-mile track since 2009.

“He really hired me to win Indy, I felt like,” commented Montoya, who now owns two Indy 500 victories. “It really meant a lot winning it for Roger; to be able to prove him right is good.”

Now, it’s time for the race’s 100th edition; a year in which Penske is celebrating half a century in auto racing. And nothing would be better for Team Penske than to drink the milk in victory lane for the 17th time.

“It’s probably the biggest event I’ve ever participated in,” Montoya said about Sunday’s race. “You have so many more competitive cars (this year). Last year, it was really a Ganassi-Penske fight most of the day.”

Not this year.

“Half of the grid has a shot at winning it,” Montoya continued. “The draft is huge. People are going to make more mistakes, so it’s going to make it even tougher. You can’t go side-by-side in the corners. Whoever commits the most ends up ahead. That makes it fun. It makes you think, ‘When do you want to take those risks?’ There are times you want to throw it in there, hold it wide open and see who’s braver. The difference between clean air and dirty air or traffic is huge this year; it’s bigger than normal. Handling is going to be very important.”

Montoya qualified 17th for this year’s event due to a trash bag flying onto the track during his qualifying run. He casually noted it was better than starting 33rd.

“I feel with a 500-mile race you’ve got to take your time at the start, don’t worry about it. Just see what it brings. Don’t stress out about anything,” Montoya said. “It’s a 500-mile race. It’s a long way to go. The opportunity comes and you either take it or you don’t. You make a decision in an instant. Sometimes it’s the right one; sometimes it’s the wrong one.

“You can only do what you can do. If you’re going to try harder this week, it means you’re not doing your job. If you don’t try this hard every week, then you shouldn’t be here. For me, I just keep doing the same thing. I just put it all on the table and give it my all. Sometimes it’s good enough and sometimes it’s not.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 28 2016
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