Monday, December 05, 2022

Let no one rule Montoya out of the Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS ( Associated Press) — That’s right Juan!

That is the phrase that people usually pronounce when Juan Pablo Montoya does not want to do something, postpones the answer to what was asked of him or simply pretends not to listen.

Now he’s back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for what could be his last racing adventure. He will turn 47 in September and is focused on furthering his son’s career in motorsports.

So during “Fast Friday,” when Montoya took just a couple of laps in 41-mile-per-hour winds, some of his rivals wondered if the Colombian even wants to be in the race. He, too, didn’t stand out much in practice sessions or qualifying.

The Associated Press asked Montoya what he thought of the opinion of some competitors, in the sense that he is not putting all his effort in Indianapolis. The pilot was silent, looking out the window of the Chevrolet Camaro in which he was leaving.

“Good for them,” he replied. And that was it.

The Bogotano is an enigma. He has been for his career spanning more than three decades.

He does what he wants when he wants. Some consider him too direct and stubborn. But everyone agrees that at various times he has been one of the best drivers in the world.

Like that time he appeared in the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie in 2000 and led 167 of the 200 laps to take the win. Or a few weeks later, when he competed in the CART race at Michigan and went wheel-to-wheel with Michael Andretti for almost 12 laps at the end, to win what is still considered one of the greatest duels in single-seater history in USA.

Montoya moved to Formula One the following season and, in just his third race, won a reckless duel with Schumacher. Montoya refused to budge when he was looking for the lead, and his stubbornness took the legendary German off the track.

He had seven wins in F1. He won at Monza, Monaco and Silverstone, before getting tired of the politics of this motorsport category.

That’s when he called Chip Ganassi to see if he had a car for him in America. The answer was an invitation to NASCAR, where Montoya raced for seven seasons, with a pair of Cup Series victories.

Then he went back to IndyCar. For the first time in 14 years, Montoya raced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, finishing fifth in his second Indy 500 experience.

What did you do the following year? Montoya was crowned in 2015. He thus achieved his second victory in three participations in the Indianapolis 500.

Montoya’s stats in this competition don’t seem real: Two wins in six starts and just one time he’s finished lower than ninth. He didn’t finish in 2016, when he was involved in a collision.

Arrow team president Taylor Kiel said Montoya is “absolutely” involved with the race, and will bring experience and knowledge to a group made up of Mexican Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist.

These are two inexperienced drivers in the Indianapolis 500.

“I find that Juan can be an additive to our program in many ways. He certainly has a lot of experience, and his resume speaks for itself,” Kiel said Friday. “But what he brings is a fresh opinion and perspective. He comes to this team for a month and he is able to give us an opinion on where he thinks we are. I think that’s important.

“He is capable of winning this race from any starting position. He is correct, the race is on Sunday and I have full confidence that he will be in the front, as he was last year”.

So if Montoya doesn’t find it necessary to run every lap at Indianapolis in order to prepare, he’ll tell Arrow McLaren SP that the race isn’t until Sunday and he’s not going to risk his car.

He will race with Arrow for the second year in a row, after finishing ninth last year. He admits that he is smarter, calmer and more calculating than he was in his youth.

“I’m good, I don’t need to fake anything… I’m the third driver on this team, I have the third car,” he told the Associated Press. “If I destroy it before the race, then I know that the fourth car will not be as good as the one I have now.

“Why take risks? It would be stupid.”

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