Juan Pablo Montoya looking forward to competing against Fernando Alonso in Indy 500
Former Formula 1, IndyCar, NASCAR, and now part-time IndyCar Series driver Juan Pablo Montoya was back at a racetrack Saturday. The popular Colombian driver was at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, where he unveiled the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet he’ll race in this year’s Indy 500
After competing full time in Formula 1, then NASCAR, Montoya spent three full seasons in the IndyCar Series winning five races including the Indianapolis 500 twice, in 2000 and 2015.
For this season however, there was no full-time contract from Penske, instead only an offer to compete in this year’s Indy 500 in a one-off deal for the team. Montoya, 41, has been focusing on spending time with his family and helping his 12-year old son with his budding racing career. He said Saturday he hasn’t missed his time away from full-time racing.
“Good,” Montoya said of his time off. “Really good to be honest. In a way, it was kind of weird, but it was really good. The opportunity with Penske came to do this and I thought it would be … for long-term would be the best thing for me and it’s good. I’m really happy.”
Juan Pablo Montoya has tested for Penske this season.
One unexpected thing for Montoya came with the announcement that he will be racing in the Indy 500 against his former F1 rival Fernando Alonso.
“If you would have told me I was going to win a race ever against Alonso, (it) would be an endurance race or something, not in Indy to be honest,” he said. “I think it’s great. I think having Fernando is going to be a really good day for motorsports, not only for IndyCar, but I think the attention overall for seeing Fernando and myself and everybody running Indy is going to be really big.”
Montoya said the spectacle of the Indy 500 may surprise Alonso.
“It’s a lot of people out there,” Montoya said. “It is weird, because you go out there and you get the announcement then you have a picture and then you’ve got like 15 minutes and then you walk to the car and you get in and you start. It is so many people around you. I think that’s a little bit hard for him from what he is used to in Formula 1 and he has been doing that for a lot of years. We started the same year together when I was there in F1, so he’s been doing it for a long time. It’s just you have your own space and people really respect your space and here no, the fans, the sponsors, everybody are there and everybody wants a picture and you’ve got to please them.”
Juan Pablo Montoya has raced at Indy in both the IndyCar series as well as NASCAR.
For someone who has raced, and won, in several of the world’s major motorsports series, Montoya said it would be nice to see more drivers moving from one series to another.
“It’s just going to create a little more interest overall,” Montoya said of Alonso’s entry in the Indy 500. “It is something that it would be nice to see all motorsports, to be able to see top drivers jump from one to the other just for one race. I was lucky enough to be in all the top series in the world and being able to win in all of them and everything. I’ve been very blessed in that point of view.”
Alonso will be testing for his Andretti Autosport team in the coming weeks, a special test that Montoya said he has no problem with IndyCar allowing.
The test, Montoya said, won’t be just about getting used to the car.
Fernando Alonso has raced on Indy’s road course in Formula 1.
“You still have got to find the right combination and the right people,” he said. “People are the big thing. Who you work with. How good of a car they are going to give you. Fernando has a good thing going. The test is going to help him get up to speed. I’m sure McLaren is going to get involved and look at all the data. They are going to do it properly.”
It will be preparation for the challenges Alonso will face in the Indy 500.
“The biggest challenge is going to be, first, he has never done a race that is that long, and the traffic,” Montoya said. “He is going to have to learn and understand the traffic. I think if he is patient enough through the week and builds to it, I think he will be fine. He is a really good driver. He has really good teammates. People have run at Indy before and run well. There is no reason why he shouldn’t run well.”