Juan Montoya Completes First IndyCar Test With Team Penske
IndyCar - Sebring, FL
Juan Pablo Montoya began his initiation back into open-wheel racing on Monday afternoon, participating in his first IndyCar Series test with new team, Penske Racing.
The test -- at Sebring International Raceway in South Florida -- was his first time in an Indy car since 2000, the same year that he won the Indianapolis 500 for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
Montoya is returning to his roots next season after a frustrating seven year stint in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Prior to that, he spent six years in Formula 1 with Williams and McLaren, winning seven Grand Prix, 13 pole positions and 30 podiums.
His previous Indy car career was short but prolific, winning 11 times in 21 starts, capturing the 1999 CART Championship while under loan from Williams.
His NASCAR career was less than stellar. He won two Sprint Cup races and only made the Chase for the Championship once. He also won a single Nationwide Series race at Mexico City in 2007. And despite coming close on ovals on several occasions, each of Montoya's victories was on a road course.
But now he's coming back home to open-wheel racing but with Team Penske -- Ganassi's arch rival.
New teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves (the championship runner-ups in each of the past four seasons) were on hand to assist with the test and Power prepared the No. 2 Chevrolet before turning it over to Montoya.
Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Penske adviser Rick Mears also attended and the entire team says Montoya got up to speed with relative ease. For his part, Montoya just finds it hard to believe that he's back in the IndyCar Series.
"I still don't believe it that I'm here, to be honest with you," Montoya said. "You look at it. I look at the car and everything. My name is on the car. It's really exciting. It's nice because of there's been excitement of everybody that I'm coming back to open wheel."
Once he began turning laps, Montoya had to fight windy conditions and cold temperatures. The largest challenge, he said, was overcoming the speed in which everything was happening. It was just two weeks ago that he was competing in the NASCAR season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway and now he suddenly has to shift back into an open-wheel mentality.
"More time in the car and everything will slow down and it will be easier," Montoya said after the test. "That's kind of normal and it's happened to me before a few times, so I know that with time everything will be easier. I'm happy.
"You always want more, but what's amazing and great is the people at Team Penske -- their dedication and people are unbelievable. I'm honored to be here."
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