NASCAR, and then former IndyCar driver, Juan Pablo Montoya surprised the stock car racing world last season when he announced his planned return to open wheel racing. It appears that the move has been a good one for Montoya and his race team which is Team Penske. Now he has captured the checkered flag by winning this weekend at Pocono.
Even though the race cars in the INDYCAR Racing Series have changed dramatically since Montoya made to the move to NASCAR it appears that the veteran driver has picked up where he left off. The cars have changed, the driver competition has risen, and the variety of tracks on the schedule has grown. The former Indy 500 winner placed fourth in the second event of the season at Long Beach. He then finished fifth in the 98th running of the famed Indianapolis 500. He followed that with back-to-back podium finishes at Texas Motor Speedway and Race 1 at Houston in June.
That work led up to the win over the 4th of July weekend at Pocono. It was the first win for Montoya in the CART/IndyCar Series since 2000. Soon after winning the race and posing for pictures in Victory Lane the excited driver made his way to the stands and a large group of fans. According to Montoya he noticed several people in the stands waving Colombian flags and cheering for him as he won the race. Going to say hello to the fans was a natural reaction for the Columbian born driver.
"I had to say thanks for coming," Montoya said with a smile. "It's been a long road, a lot harder than people realize."
Montoya decided to make a move back to IndyCar as he grew older but before he started the latest chapter of his racing career. His stated desire was that he wanted to be in a position to win races. To him the opportunity could have been in NASCAR or IndyCar but the open wheel seat came available with Team Penske with the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
"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 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 became the eighth different driver in the IndyCar Series in eleven races on the season when he won at Pocono for the Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco. He is the first driver of the season to win a race from the pole. It was his third win in a 500-mile Indy car race. While he was quick to thank the fans in attendance he was also very thankful for the opportunity that Roger Penske provide him.
"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)."