INDIANAPOLIS – Before opening the latest chapter of his racing career, Juan Pablo Montoya said he wanted to be in a position to win races, and joining Team Penske for the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season provided that opportunity.
“I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve won in everything I’ve driven,” said the 38-year-old Colombian, who competed and won in Indy car, Formula One and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. “If you’re not in a winning car, there’s no point. At this point in my career, I cannot waste my time.”
Montoya has been a quick study in his return to Indy car racing, learning on the fly despite the Verizon IndyCar Series’ diverse racetrack schedule and depth of competition. He placed fourth in the second event of the season at Long Beach, finished fifth in the 98th Indianapolis 500 and recorded back-to-back podium finishes at Texas Motor Speedway and race one at Houston in June.
On July 6 at Pocono Raceway, he cashed in on the biggest opportunity presented so far with a victory in the Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco. It was his third win in a 500-mile Indy car race and his first victory since September 2000 in the Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway.
Montoya is the eighth different winner through 11 rounds this season and the first to win from the pole. The 200-lap race on the 2.5-mile tri-oval, slowed by one caution for six laps, was the fastest (202.402 mph) for a 500-mile race in Indy car history. The NASCAR race record is 145.384 mph set by Jeff Gordon in the 2011 Pocono 500.
Montoya was quick to congratulate the crew of the No. 2 PPG Team Penske entry, and especially cited the opportunity presented by Penske.
“I want thank Roger for believing in me after how many years out of open-wheel, coming back and believing I could do it,” he said. “I think Roger is the man. It’s unbelievable everything he does. He’s an example to anybody, and for me I’m not saying this because I run for him. I knew Roger a little bit, but now that I work with him, it’s unbelievable. The way he does things, you’re not surprised why you’re kicking everybody’s (butts).”
The victory in the middle round of the Triple Crown series that offers double points moved Montoya to fourth in the championship standings. Team Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves, who was the runner-up at Pocono, are tied for the lead.
Recent results have further incentivized Montoya, who is 55 points behind heading to the July 12 race under the lights at Iowa Speedway.
“I think Roger deserves the (series) championship. The last three or four years they were close in the championship but just couldn’t close it,” he said. “If the biggest problem we have at the end of the year is who is going to win the championship, it’s a good problem to have.”