What started as a casual pit lane conversation between Penske Racing president Tim Cindric and Juan Pablo Montoya has blossomed into the return of Team Penske’s third full-time IZOD IndyCar Series entry.
Montoya, the 1999 CART champion and 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner, will drive the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet for the full 2014 season alongside Will Power and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves.
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“Juan is a proven winner at all levels of motorsport,” team owner Roger Penske said. “He has won a lot of races and championships and he has an extremely passionate fan base. We look forward to building on his successes together and we believe he will be a great addition to Team Penske.”
Montoya, a 37-year old native of Colombia, is one of the most accomplished drivers in the world. His career highlights include race wins in Formula One, NASCAR and Indy car. He is the only driver to produce victories in the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the Monaco Grand Prix. Montoya earned 11 Indy car wins over two seasons as he captured the CART title in his rookie season of 1999 followed by a victory in the Indy 500 in 2000.
"I am really excited,” Montoya said. “If you dream of any ideal position for any driver, driving for Penske would be No. 1. When I became a free agent, I said my No. 1 choice was to be in a winning car. When this opportunity came around, I didn't have to think about it. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Montoya says adapting back to an open-wheel can and all the changes that have occurred since he last drove an Indy car in 2000 will be a test, but he’s always been a quick study. Montoya added he has been training with an eye towards racing an Indy car and has “plenty of time before the first race to get there.”
“The conditioning is big part of it,” he said. “Since the moment I became a free agent I was looking at open-wheel and training really hard. I know the conditioning it takes to be a champion and I'm working to that goal.”
Competing in a variety of disciplines, cars owned and prepared by Penske Racing have produced 377 major race wins, 433 pole positions and 24 National Championships. The team has also earned 15 Indianapolis 500 victories in its storied history.
“Juan has been a winner in everything he's been in,” Cindric said. “We didn't have to drag him along and convince him that Indy was different than NASCAR. This was about him saying: ‘I want to drive for you guys and I want to figure out how to win with you guys.’ "
Montoya at a glance
Competed in CART from 1999-2000 becoming the second driver to win the series title in their rookie season. (Nigel Mansell was the other in 1993)
* Won 11 Indy car races in two seasons with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, including the 2000 Indianapolis 500.
*Indy car career wins:
1999 – Long Beach, Nazareth, Rio de Janeiro, Cleveland, Mid-Ohio, Chicago, Vancouver.
2000 – Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Michigan, Gateway.
* Set Indy car rookie records for wins (7) and laps led (954) in 1999.
* Claimed 14 pole positions and 14 podiums in his 41 Indy car starts (34.1 percent).
* Competed in Formula One for Williams and McLaren from 2001-2006. Won seven races, including the Monaco Grand Prix in 2003.
* Competed for Chip Ganassi Racing and Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from 2006-2013. Two-time winner in Sprint Cup (Sonoma 2007 and Watkins Glen 2010) and won 2007 Nationwide race at Mexico City.
* Three-time winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, including his debut race in 2007.