It was déjà vu all over again for 2015 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner Juan Pablo Montoya. About the only things missing were the ceremonial bottle of milk and the wreath of flowers around his neck.
Montoya and team owner Roger Penske were honored Jan. 13 at the annual Automotive News World Congress, part of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, for their achievement of winning the Indianapolis 500 for the 16th time in Team Penske history.
It was a night of remembering the path to victory last May, with both driver and owner receiving the ceremonial “Baby Borg,” a miniature replica of the iconic sterling silver Borg-Warner Trophy that debuted in 1936 and features bas relief sculptures of the face of every winner dating to Ray Harroun in the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911.
It is Montoya’s second Baby Borg. For Penske, meanwhile, it is his 16th Baby Borg as a car owner. The first came in 1972 with driver Mark Donohue and the total is more than any team owner in Indy 500 history.
But rather than standing over 5 feet tall, weighing 110 pounds and being valued at $3.5 million – as the actual Borg-Warner Trophy is – Montoya and Penske were able to carry their 18-inch Baby Borgs in one hand and take the sparkling mini-trophy home with them.
“It’s pretty nice,” Montoya said with a smile, noting that the span between his 2000 Indianapolis 500 win and last year’s victory is a race record. “Compared to the one 15 years ago, this one looks so much nicer.”
When jokingly asked if his sculpted image from 2015 on the base of his Baby Borg may have added a few gray hairs or facial wrinkles from his likeness after winning the 2000 Indy 500, Montoya broke out in a hearty laugh.
“I think I look better now,” he quipped. “The sculptor did an amazing job. I look so much better now.”
Montoya is obviously hoping to repeat as champion in 2016. He knows the pressure that will go with it, given it will be the 100th running of the legendary “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” That’s why he’s approaching the milestone event in uneventful fashion.
“It would be the same as the 99th one,” Montoya said. “For me, I just think of it as a race. For everything I experienced with Borg, the trophy, coming here to Detroit and get presented with the trophy, the whole nine yards this year, it would really make it a really nice experience (next year).”
Penske reveled not only in what his team did in 2015, but also what the trophies – the big Borg-Warner and the smaller Baby Borg – mean in the big picture.
“When you look at the history and each one you get gets tougher because you begin to understand the impact of those personally and then as a team,” he said. “The good news is we all start at ground zero going into the next race. The only thing we have as an advantage is we have some 600 years (of experience) with our people at the race. I think the durability, reliability and, of course, the driver lineup make a big difference.”
Penske, who is celebrating 50 years as a race team owner in 2016, hinted it wouldn’t surprise him if he’s back in Detroit at this time next year, accepting a 17th Baby Borg.
“I think the driver lineup we have going into this season is the strongest we’ve ever had from the standpoint of having four bullets,” he said, alluding to the Team Penske quartet of Montoya, three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power and Simon Pagenaud. “We need to execute and, to me, that’s the focus I have today – and not because I have a bunch of trophies in my cabinet. The point is I need another one and I’m not going to be satisfied unless I get one.”
Montoya admitted he never thought he’d win another Indianapolis 500, let alone have his likeness added a second time to the Borg-Warner Trophy or receive a second symbolic Baby Borg. He left Indy car racing for Formula One and then NASCAR following his 2000 Indianapolis 500 win and didn’t think he would return.
“To be honest, I never really thought I’d do it again,” he said. “But Roger gave me an opportunity to come (back) to INDYCAR and it’s been amazing. I’ve loved every second of being back with him, I’m passionate about it and that makes it all a lot of fun.”
For ticket information on the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 and the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis that precedes it at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, visit ims.com.