One in an occasional series this month
As Juan Pablo Montoya thrust his fist into the air in winning the 2000 Indianapolis 500, team owner Chip Ganassi shouted into his radio, "You're world famous now."
Following the race and to this day, Montoya said he doesn't feel world famous for winning the world’s most famous race in a dominant performance.
"To be honest, I was joking with Chip over the radio. The car was perfect. We didn't have to risk anything,” said Montoya, who led 167 of the 200 laps and crossed the finish line 7.1839 seconds ahead of 1996 winner Buddy Lazier.
He was the first rookie winner since Graham Hill in 1966.
Montoya, the reigning CART champion, qualified in the middle of the front for the 500 Mile Race, with Greg Ray earning the pole.
The next weekend, Montoya started from the pole in the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway in Pennsylvania – less than 24 hours before the green flag for the Indy 500.
“I led like 200 laps and I got a flat with 20 laps to go,” Montoya recalled of the CART-sanctioned race. “I came here and I didn’t even do the parade or anything. It was kind of weird. The first time I was here for everything was last year and it was pretty cool. The day before the race is pretty exciting and everybody is pretty overwhelmed. I try not to get overworked about it.”
He was similarly even-keel in the 2000 race.
Stan Wattles brought out the final yellow flag on Lap 174 for a blown engine. Montoya and Lazier pitted, which allowed Montoya’s Ganassi Racing teammate, Jimmy Vasser, to take the lead.
It didn’t last long as Montoya overtook Vasser on Lap 180. Lazier set the fastest lap of the race (218.494 mph) on Lap 198 in an effort to catch Montoya, but it was too late to make a difference.
“You just drive as hard as you can because if you relax you’ll make a mistake,” Montoya recalled about the closing laps. “You have to stay on it and see what happens. It was cool; I came here and won it.”
He’ll attempt to become a two-time winner May 24 in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
“I’m excited because we’ve been strong on ovals,” he said.