Juan Pablo Montoya will not be returning to NASCAR next season. Putting the silly season news to rest, it was announced on Monday that he’ll be driving the number 2 car for Team Penske in IndyCar instead.
The 37-year-old Columbian, who has won at the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the Monaco Grand Prix, is excited about the opportunity, saying, “If you dream of any ideal position for any driver, driving for Penske would be No. 1. My No. 1 choice was to be in a winning car. When this opportunity came around, I didn't have to think about it.”
While making the jump back to open wheel racing (he raced in CART and Formula 1 before heading to NASCAR) will be a challenge, he says, “I have a lot of time before the first race and have a lot of time to prepare myself." And he’s got a jump start on it already, as he’s been training for open-wheel racing since becoming a free agent.
And the folks over at Penske aren’t too worried about the switch, either. Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing, said, “Juan has been a winner in everything he's been in. 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.’” Team owner Roger Penske looks forward to working with Montoya and thinks he’ll be a great addition.
Montoya set the record for amount of wins by a rookie (7) and number of laps led by a rookie (954) in the 1999 CART season and was the 2nd person to win a CART championship in their rookie season when he took the title in 1999. In 41 CART starts, he took 14 pole positions and 14 podiums. He also won four races in the 2000 CART season for Target Chip Ganassi, the same year in which he made his singular IndyCar start and won the Indianapolis 500. During his time in Formula 1, he took the checkered seven times, including the ’03 Monaco race. In NASCAR, he has won twice in the Sprint Cup (Sonoma in 2007 and Watkins Glen in ’10) and once in the Nationwide Series in 2007 at Mexico.