IndyCar Notes: Montoya Has Simple Plan For 2021 Indy 500

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, December 13 2020

Juan Pablo Montoya will take a shot at winning his third Indy 500 next year.

Juan Pablo Montoya says there is nothing complicated about his approach to winning the Indianapolis 500, a feat he has accomplished twice during a versatile globetrotting career.

“You got to have a good car and you got to drive the hell out of it,” Montoya said at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after scoring his second Indy 500 victory in May 2015. ”If you drive better and do a better job than anybody else, you’re going to freaking win it. If you don’t, you don’t.

“Simple, no?”

Freaking yes!

Montoya will get a chance to re-prove his theory with Arrow McLaren SP during the 105th running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 30, 2021. Montoya will wheel a third Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet at IMS as teammate to fulltime drivers Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist. This will be JPM’s first attempt at the Indy 500 since 2017, when he finished sixth. 

“I’m very excited to be joining Arrow McLaren SP for the Indianapolis 500,” Montoya, 39, said in a team news release. “I have some great history with McLaren from my F1 days and I’m looking forward to making some more at next year’s Indianapolis 500.”

JPM drove for McLaren Racing in the FIA Formula One World Championship in 2005 and 2006. 

“Arrow McLaren SP is thrilled to have a driver of Juan’s caliber join the team for next year’s Indianapolis 500,” said Sam Schmidt, co-owner of Arrow McLaren SP. “His experience will elevate the entire team, including our young, talented lineup of Pato and Felix. When you think that he’s only started the Indy 500 five times but won it twice, that’s impressive.”

A native of Colombia, Juan Pablo’s resume includes championships in CART and IMSA, with wins in the NTT IndyCar Series, Formula One and NASCAR. Montoya will work with veteran engineer Craig Hampson to compete for his third spot on the coveted Borg-Warner Trophy. 

“I’m delighted for Juan to rejoin the McLaren family and return to the Indianapolis 500 with Arrow McLaren SP,” said Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing. “He’s an intensely competitive, highly versatile driver, with deep experience at the top level of motorsport and a big following. Having him with us at the 500 next year will be great for the team and INDYCAR fans everywhere.”

Montoya won his first Indianapolis 500 as a rookie in 2000 with Chip Ganassi Racing during the CART team’s one-off appearance in the Indy Racing League-sanctioned event. Juan Pablo led 167 of 200 laps in his No. 9 Target G Force/Oldsmobile to bolster his reputation as “Greatest Racing Driver in the World.” Competing for team-owner Roger Penske 15 years later, Montoya won the race’s 99th edition driving “Juan’s Way.” Montoya executed a daring pass that took him from third-to-first on Lap 197 of 200 and held off reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion and Team Penske teammate Will Power to score his second Indy 500 victory.

Montoya’s margin of victory over Power was 0.1046-seconds _ fourth-closest finish in race history. The Penske pair battled pole-sitter Scott Dixon of CGR during a thrilling final segment. Five of the race’s 37 lead changes occurred in the last 15 laps following a restart when Montoya _ who led four times for a total of just nine laps _ passed Dixon in Turn 1 for second before overtaking Power exiting Turn 4 to capture the lead for good.

“When you’re racing for the 500, the move might be the last-lap move or like it worked for me, with three laps to go,” said Montoya, driver that day of the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. “The move presents itself and you either take it or you leave it. Sometimes you make the right move, sometimes you screw-up. I was proud I made the right move. I told my guys, ‘There’s a hundred ways to screw-up this race, but there’s only one way to win it’ and we found it.”


Helio Castroneves’ 21-year tenure with Team Penske has been capped by induction into the organization’s Hall of Fame. Castroneves was recognized Friday for his accomplishments on and off the track as the ninth inductee into the Team Penske Hall of Fame.

Team Penske President Tim Cindric traveled to Florida to surprise Castroneves with his HOF induction. With Castroneves’ longtime teammate and fellow-Brazilian Gil de Ferran in attendance and hundreds of Team Penske associates participating in a live online celebration, Cindric presented the longest-tenured driver in team history with the award.

“What an incredible surprise,” said Castroneves, 45, who ranks inside the top-five among all Team Penske drivers in virtually every statistical category. “I was hoping to visit the Team Penske shop in North Carolina to see everyone after the season, but we couldn’t do it with all of the COVID-19 restrictions. It was so great to connect with everyone virtually. I have so many friends and people that are really like family to me after 21 years together.

“That was awesome, but for TC (Cindric) to then announce that I was being inducted into the Team Penske Hall of Fame _ wow. What an amazing honor. I want to thank Roger (Penske), TC and everyone at Team Penske that I’ve worked with over the years. It has been an incredible ride and this is such a special tribute.” 

Castroneves, who joined Team Penske in 2000, earned 30 NTT IndyCar Series victories for “The Captain,” topped by three Indianapolis 500 wins. Castroneves became the first driver in history to win in his first two career Indy 500 starts when he produced victories at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2001 and 2002. He won again at IMS in 2009 and remains one of only 10 drivers in history to earn three or more Indy 500 victories.

Castroneves transitioned to a full-season program with Team Penske in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2018. After earning five victories over the past three seasons, Castroneves and Ricky Taylor _ his teammate in the No. 7 Acura _ captured the series DPi championship in 2020. With the Acura Team Penske sports car program drawing to a close after the season, the title-winning effort marked the perfect ending to Castroneves’ time with Team Penske as it represented the first series championship in his career. After 21 seasons and 344 combined career starts, Castroneves produced 36 wins (fifth in team history), 60 poles (first in team history), 107 podium results (first in team history) and 160 top-five finishes (second in team history).

Following his first career INDYCAR win for the team at Detroit in 2000, Castroneves scaled the safety fence next to the track to celebrate with the fans. The fence-climb became his signature victory celebration as he earned the nickname “Spider Man.”

With his engaging personality and an unbridled passion for racing, Castroneves enjoyed a unique connection with team members and partners while helping to draw a new breed of fans to the sport. In addition, he became a household name off the track in 2007 when he competed in and won Season Five of the reality TV show Dancing with the Stars.

“Helio and I came to Team Penske at the end of 1999 and our relationship goes beyond racing,” Cindric said. “We’ve had a lot of fun together over the years and it’s hard to imagine this team without him.  He really defines what it is to be a ‘team player.’ Even though he will be competing against us next year, he can always count on us to be there for him.” 

Castroneves will drive part-time in select INDYCAR and IMSA races for rival organizations in 2021.

With his induction, Castroneves has joined previous Team Penske Hall of Fame honorees Roger Penske (2016), Mark Donohue (2016), Rick Mears (2017), Karl Kainhofer (2017), Rusty Wallace (2018), Walter Czarnecki (2018), Don Miller (2019) and Dan Luginbuhl (2019).

Inductees are chosen from current and former drivers, employees and partners that have made a significant impact on the team and its history. Hall of Famers are honored both at an event and within the walls of the Team Penske facility in Mooresville, N.C.


Colton Herta will transition into Andretti Autosport’s No. 26 Gainbridge Honda during the 2021 NTT IndyCar Seeries season.

Herta finished third in the 2020 driver’s championship in the No. 88 Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Honda. The 2021 season will mark Herta’s third year in the series and is a return to the No. 26, Herta’s number early in his karting career.

“We’re really excited to welcome back Gainbridge and look forward to seeing what Colton can do in 2021,” said Michael Andretti, chairman/CEO of Andretti Autosport. “Colton’s career has been on a steady rise. We’re confident that he will continue to grow and advance, and we’ll see the No. 26 in Victory Lane soon.”

The switch is part of a new multi-year agreement between both companies that was launched in 2017 with Zach Veach for the majority of the three seasons. Veach vacated the No. 26 before the end of the 2020 season.

Gainbridge is a digital platform providing simple and direct access to trusted financial products to help clients grow their money for goals big and small, not just for retirement. The 2021 season will mark a fourth year of sponsorship for Group1001 under the Gainbridge brand, and a fifth season overall.

Herta set a series record in 2019 as youngest race-winner _ just under a week shy of his 19th birthday _ on the Circuit of The Americas road-course in Austin, Texas. In three seasons, Herta has recorded three wins, 10 top-five and 19 top-10 results. 

“I’m really excited for this new partnership with Gainbridge, they’ve been a huge supporter of Andretti Autosport and INDYCAR as a whole,” Herta said. “The livery is wonderful to look at and will pop at every track we go to; I can’t wait to see that Gainbridge livery at the front of the field.”

Herta, the 20-year-old son of former INDYCAR regular Bryan Herta, joins already announced driver Alexander Rossi on Andretti Autosport’s 2021 roster. The 2021 season will go green on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 7, 2021. 


African American businessman/former team manager Rod Reid has announced formation of Force Indy, a racing team set to compete in the 2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship with assistance from Team Penske.

For 30 years, USF2000 has been a formative step of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system, which culminates in scholarship opportunities in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Reid, Force Indy Team’s Principal, boasts years of karting and auto racing experience and a recently expanded relationship with NXG Youth Motorsports, Inc. The latter has introduced more than 2,300 students from under-represented communities, ages 11 to 15, to the educational benefits of the sport. Force Indy’s race team will focus on hiring and developing Black American men and women mechanics, engineers, staffers and drivers.

“I started a race team in 1984, and I’ve always had a desire to have a team of talented individuals who look like me in the professional ranks of the sport,” Reid said. “I’ve been in and around the sport for 40 years, and this is just the culmination of years of hard work. I simply cannot wait to see this race team on the track this spring.”

The Force Indy announcement includes a mentorship from Team Penske, winners of a record 18 Indianapolis 500s and 16 NTT IndyCar Series championships. During its first season, Force Indy will be based in Concord, N.C., as it receives guidance from key Team Penske personnel.

“When the IMS and INDYCAR acquisition happened a year ago, I was pleased to learn of the work Rod Reid was doing,” said Roger Penske, Indianapolis Motor Speedway chairman. “To lend our support to an effort like this is a natural. Together, we’ll work to not only get this new team off the ground but continue to support it and its mission as it continues down a path to compete at the top level.”

Force Indy will make its debut at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida, March 5-7, 2021. The team will campaign the No. 99 car in honor of the late Dewey “Rajo Jack” Gatson, who drove a Roadster with that number toward the end of his career in 1951. Gatson, one of the winningest African American drivers and mechanics in racing history, never received an opportunity to drive in the Indianapolis 500. The driver and sponsorship for Force Indy’s first season have yet to be announced.

Overall, the initiative is part of a broader picture in the INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s “Race for Equality & Change,” announced in July. Goals include recruiting and developing a diverse workforce throughout all levels of INDYCAR and IMS, ultimately creating a community that fundamentally transforms the sport.

“We are fortunate to have Team Penske offer guidance and race-winning experience,” Reid said. “Roger’s experience will be an invaluable resource in creating a successful organization. There’s no better time than now to start a team.”


Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing joined a noteworthy international list of open-wheel stars with his selection as 2020 NTT IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year.

Veekay _ a native of Holland whose full name is Rinus van Kalmthout _ received an award previously won by fellow-Dutchman Arie Luyendyk and a lineup featuring Nigel Mansell of Great Britain, Alex Zanardi of Italy, Tony Kanaan of Brazil, Scott Dixon of New Zealand, Sebastien Bourdais of France and Alexander Rossi of the United States.

VeeKay claimed his first INDYCAR pole position during October’s Harvest Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course, finished third in that weekend’s first race. He recorded two more top-five finishes in 14 races in ECR’s No. 21 Chevrolet. VeeKay is the first Chevrolet driver to win ROY in domestic open-wheel racing since 1992, when Stefan Johansson of Sweden drove a Penske/Chevrolet fielded by Bettenhausen Racing en route to the Championship Auto Racing Teams rookie honor.

“I was minus-8 back then, so that’s pretty crazy,” said VeeKay, who was born on Sept. 11, 2000 in Hoofddorp, Netherlands. “Well, it’s pretty cool that I’m on that list now, and it seems that most of the Rookies of the Year go on to be successful in INDYCAR. I’m very happy to be on the list and especially with a Chevy, which hasn’t happened in many years. And I cannot wait to not be a rookie next year and fight with those guys again.”

A 2019 graduate of the Road to Indy program, VeeKay said his learning curve was accelerated by hours logged in the Chevrolet simulator. “Of course, we spent a lot of time in the simulator on setup work, not only driving,” VeeKay said. “I’ve driven different simulators, but the setups were never really the same. But then the one from Chevy, it just translated the same way from the simulator to the racetrack. So very surprising, very good.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, December 13 2020
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