Throughout Verizon IndyCar Series Media Day, each driver was asked one big key question – what would it mean to win the 100th Indianapolis 500? Juan Pablo Montoya kept his answer short and to the point.
“If you have to work harder because it’s the 100ths, then you haven’t been doing your job.”
Montoya knows what it takes to win the Indianapolis 500, having picked up the victory last season after an impressive late-race duel with Team Penske teammate Will Power. The battle marked no surprise to fans as Team Penske had shown speed across the various tracks throughout the season to date, in which came from a combination of a strong package from Chevrolet, and how well they work together as a group. The chemistry between the four drivers and working well is something that Montoya feels benefits them across the board.
“I think that’s why we qualify so well because we push each other so hard,” he said. “We can see where they’re quicker than you, where you need to improve, where you’re okay. You keep getting yourself better. We get a lot of good information out of the four cars.
“I think we respect each other a lot. We’re very good friends. We work very well together. That’s the key. I think if our relationship wasn’t good enough, we probably wouldn’t be here.”
The victory included a couple of impressive moves along the way, highlighted by Montoya going from third to first in the span of two corners. He would pass Scott Dixon in turn three with three laps to go, followed by a pass on Power in turn one.
“At that moment, got a little too low,” Montoya recalled. “We all struggle with understeer in traffic, find ways to get away from that, find some clear air. I just shoot a little too low, clipped the grass. Scared the hell out of me. I was lucky enough to catch it.
“The car had plenty of speed. The Verizon car was good that day. As Will said, coming through the last lap, I saw Will. I’m going, Oh, I might be in trouble. When I saw him really close going into two, I saw where he put the nose. That was good enough. When he pushed up, I looked at the gap, I said, I’m going to get there.”
The victory even meant more considering that Montoya had to restart all the way back in 32nd at one point as a result of contact under a caution on the opening lap with Simona de Silvestro. Montoya said in that moment, he relied on his NASCAR experience and learning how to be patient over a 500-mile period.
“Just take your time. You struggle to pass the guy in 31st place. You have understeer, the car feels terrible, it’s going to be a long day,” he commented. “You just take your time. It’s like one, then the other, then the other. When I realized I was running P8, I’m not too bad. But it’s hard because each passing takes a long time. You know what I mean? Everybody fighting for the position so hard. Once you pass them, then you got to go through the next guy, go through the same thing, go through the same thing. It’s pretty tough.”
The maturity in knowing what to do in the situation came with age and experience, as Montoya believes if the same thing would’ve happens 15 years earlier he would not have handle it in the same manner.
“I was impatient, making crazy moves when you don’t need to,” he reflected. “There’s no need. There’s no need to risk the car. It’s hard because some people that you get next to, you’re going to pass them, they still turn like you’re not there. I know you’ve seen me, so why are you being such a moron?”
With the experience on his side and a solid top-five season under his belt in his return to the Verizon IndyCar Series, Montoya is hoping to find that glory once again – perhaps not just in the Indianapolis 500, but as a series champion.