Juan Montoya, Juan Pablo Montoya, or just simply JPM.
He’s known by many different names, but what is the first thing that comes to mind when mentioning his name to a casual racing fan? Is it his Formula 1 days going wheel-to-wheel with Michael Schumacher? How about the ill-tempered moments in NASCAR driving for Chip Ganassi Racing? Perhaps it’s when the popular Rookie dominated the Indianapolis 500 in the year 2000.
Whatever it may be, there is one thing missing from the Colombian’s resume: an IndyCar title.
At age 39, Montoya can reflect back on his impressive motorsports career, and he’ll find plenty to be happy about. He won the CART Championship in 1999, the 2003 Monaco Grand Prix, and the 24 Hours of Daytona three times. On top of his success at Indianapolis, he is also a multiple-race winner in NASCAR’s premier series. He has won in every form of motorsport that he has competed in, but not many people thought he would become an IndyCar champion – so soon, anyway – when he returned to the open-wheel series just last season.
Now, he’s just five races away from completing a dream season.
Driving for Roger Penske’s Team Penske sure isn’t bad, but there’s a reason why The Captain paid for an entire car out of his own pocket to land the legendary driver. Montoya has always been oozing with talent – you don’t need glasses or a special degree to see that. There is a fire that burns deep down inside of him, a fire that pushes him to the limit and never allows him to be satisfied with mediocrity. Still, to say that this season has been fantastic for Montoya, would be a massive understatement.
Montoya started off the 2015 season in impressive fashion, winning the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg over teammate and defending series champion Will Power. Now 11 races into the season, Montoya still hasn’t looked back. He’s the only driver to have only one finish outside of the top-10 (14th at Alabama) and has an average finish of 5.6 through these first 11 races, far better than anyone else. Nobody has more podium finishes or top-five finishes than he does this year, and he is one of only four drivers to not have a DNF thus far in 2015.
Obviously Montoya knows his way around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, no matter what he’s driving. His Indy 500 win in 2000 was impressive, but his other two races at the Brickyard weren’t bad either. He returned to the famed race for the first time in a decade and a half last year, and left with another top-five finish. This year, he passed his teammate Power with four laps remaining to earn his second glass of milk at Indy. Fifteen years after his first win, he put on another show for all to witness, winning the race for his second time in three attempts.
Winning the Indy 500 is every driver’s goal to begin the season. To some, it’s the only thing that matters. Most of the recent Indy 500 winners have suffered a “hangover” of some sorts, and the championship eluded them. The last driver to actually win the 500 and the championship in the same year was Dario Franchitti in 2010. Montoya has an opportunity to do it this year, and the way the season has gone so far, it seems very likely at this point.
With just five races remaining, Montoya’s lead in the championship is 46 points over Power. Scott Dixon is in third, 49 points behind the Colombian driver. Those two appear to be the only ones within reach of challenging him as the season winds down.
Montoya has held the top spot in the standings since the season-opener in St Petersburg. He narrowly avoided two big wrecks in front of him this past weekend at the Fontana, and given the way he’s been running all year long, it appears as though he can do no wrong.