Pato O'Ward

If Juan Pablo Montoya and Pato O’Ward are not speaking Spanish to each other at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as they often do, they are speaking in the language that has made them fast friends as Arrow McLaren SP teammates.

It’s called honesty. Simple, forthright and opinionated, which both thrive off.

That shared communication style is one of the reasons the Indianapolis-based race team has three legitimate chances – including Felix Rosenqvist – to win the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 29 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, Telemundo Deportes on Universo and the INDYCAR Radio Network).

“He just shares what is going on,” O’Ward said of Montoya, who won the “500” in 2000 and 2015. “He’ll look at my (data) and say, ‘You’re gonna crash.’ I guess it’s a vote of confidence that he tells me, and I (keep it) in the back of my head to be prepared for what could happen.”

Montoya said he wants no part of driving the type of twitchy car that O’Ward prefers, and that declaration to an intrigued group of media members this week spurned a back-and-forth exchange between the drivers that epitomizes their tight bond.

“I hate it,” the Colombian said of an unpredictable ride around Indy’s 2.5-mile oval. “What’s the rush of having to catch the car five times a lap when you don’t have to?

Juan Pablo Montoya“It’s really funny because (O’Ward) thinks the car is real easy to drive, but if you look at the (data) it’s like, ‘Look (here), look (here) – you know it’s a 200-lap race, not a five-lap race.’

“I know when I was young, I didn’t mind when the car would snap -- I was comfortable. The problem is, I’ve been driving so much with traction control and things that (I’m) surprised by the snaps. I’m not interested in that stuff.”

Replied O’Ward: “I mean, I don’t like snaps …”

“Are you sure?” Montoya said, abruptly. “I’m not sure you can live (a lap) without one.”

Montoya acknowledged age as one of the many differences between the two popular drivers. He is 46 years old with hundreds of thousands of competitive miles under his safety belts, winning races all over the planet, beating the likes of Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Michael Andretti and Dario Franchitti along the way. Montoya is married with three children, including a 17-year-old son, Sebastian, who is closer to O’Ward’s age (23). It’s almost as if O’Ward is one of his own.

As an example of how Montoya has changed through the years, he told the story of last year’s “500,” when a slow final pit stop left him without a chance to compete for the race win. Several seconds back of the nearest car, the Arrow McLaren SP entry wasn’t set up to run in clean air, so he didn’t fight it. In fact, Montoya did something he wouldn’t have done earlier in his career – and something O’Ward likely would have scoffed at now -- he slowed down to yield three positions, as the car would handle better in another car’s wake.

“Because what’s the difference between (finishing) sixth or ninth?” he said. “I’ve won all kinds of races and finished lots of top-fives. I could care less (about ninth).”

O’Ward, from Mexico, said Montoya can be “stubborn” and does not like anything that has do with the chassis setups of his teammates. And O’Ward applauds him for it.

“He likes a very different car, and that’s how he likes it,” he said.

O’Ward also said he and Rosenqvist have learned an immense amount from Montoya on how to approach their craft, including racing at IMS.

“(He’ll say), ‘The weather sucks; I’m not going to drive,’” O’Ward said. “Like, there’s no need to do more. If you’re feeling good, you don’t have to overdo it.”

Said Montoya: “There’s a lot of things engineers want (drivers) to try. If you try it and don’t like it, don’t run it. If you try something and it scares the hell out of you … because sooner or later that feeling is going to bite you, and you’ll put it in the wall.

“I’ve done runs here where I left the pits and went to Turn 3 and lifted (because) I didn’t like it. Screw that.”

Montoya was asked if only champions had that leverage within a team – a suggestion that O’Ward cannot be that straightforward and stern.

“Would you rather hear a ‘no’ or have the mechanics working overnight fixing the car?” Montoya said, with O’Ward smiling at his side. “Now I tell them, ‘You drive it!’ (big laugh) Yeah, I’ve said that before.”

See? Honesty. They both speak that language.

“I think we get along because we’re honest,” O’Ward said.

“He knows I’m an open book,” Montoya said.

And about those conversations in Spanish?

“You don’t want to know what we’re talking about,” Montoya said, laughing. “Not driving-related.”

Said O’Ward: “We’re talking about the life – the life of (Indy).”

O’Ward will start Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge from the seventh position. Montoya will start 30th. The race airs live on NBC, Telemundo Deportes on Universo and the INDYCAR Radio Network beginning at 11 a.m. (ET).