After four wins, including the 2015 Indianapolis 500, and losing the 2015 championship on a tie-breaker, Juan Montoya had a down year in 2016 for Team Penske. Though he won the season-opening race at St Petersburg, he only had two other podium finishes (3rd at Detroit and Sonoma) during the year. He finished last after crashing out of the Indy 500, had an average finishing position of 11th, and ended up 9th in the final standings.
With the team’s other three drivers finishing 1-2-3 in the championship, Juan was the odd man out. Josef Newgarden was signed on October 5 to replace Montoya in the No. 2 car. Team President Tim Cindric told Motorsport that earlier this summer, an Indy 500 ride and possible sportscar program was offered to the veteran driver. After talking with other teams, it appears that Montoya has decided to accept the Penske offer.
The options for Juan were likely Ed Carpenter Racing, AJ Foyt Racing, KVSH, and Dale Coyne Racing. With Max Chilton likely returning to Chip Ganassi’s team, and ECR’s desire for an American driver, there didn’t appear to be any open seats with the top teams. Juan told Motorsport that staying with Penske is his best chance to win Indy again.
Cindric said that they had a deadline for the end of October for Juan to make a decision. With him taking the offer, it means Roger Penske will be fielding five cars in next year’s Indianapolis 500, with Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves, Newgarden, and now Montoya. Cindric also noted that part of the agreement is that Montoya would not drive for any other IndyCar teams on a part-time basis.
The news was a bit of a shock, given Montoya’s desire to remain a full-time driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The sportscar program with Penske also wouldn’t likely come into play until 2018 anyway, as they still do not have a team. While the news was somewhat surprising, it could work out very well.
Montoya gets his best opportunity at a third Indy 500 win, The Captain has five strong bullets for the race, and it gives another driver a chance for a full-time ride next season.