Montoya Return Seen As Boost For IndyCar; Penske Still Seeking Sponsors
The Izod IndyCar Series "stands to be the biggest winner" from the return of driver Juan Pablo Montoya, according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Montoya, the "most polarizing U.S.-based driver this side of Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch," brings "the villain figure IndyCar has lacked." He will "add an outspoken jolt to an otherwise friendly paddock." Montoya said that Earnhardt Ganassi Racing co-Owner Chip Ganassi, whose team "didn’t exercise their NASCAR option, supported his signing with Penske Racing." But the move "surely sticks in his craw." Montoya "compared it to the F-1 madness when he left Williams for McLaren" in '03. Montoya said, "It’s fun; I’m really excited. I feel like a 5-year-old kid right now." Montoya "doubted he’d dabble in two series at once, which means he all but ruled out competing" in the Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend. Penske was "so eager to sign Montoya that the deal was struck without a single sponsor for the No. 2 car." Team President Tim Cindric said that the commitment is "based on faith" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/17). Cindric said, "It was a short time frame from the point we could put it together. It's about [team Owner Roger Penske's] commitment to the sport and commitment to winning." USA TODAY's Gluck & Ryan note Montoya also had "talked about an IndyCar ride with Andretti Autosport and had visited Furniture Row Racing's shop in Denver two weeks ago" to discuss the No. 78 Chevy Sprint Cup ride that Kurt Busch will vacate next year (USA TODAY, 9/17).
SAVVY VETERAN: ESPN.com's John Oreovicz writes the return of Montoya with his fan base is "a boost for Indy car racing as a whole." Montoya "probably more than any other driver on earth ... relishes the opportunity to beat" Ganassi. Being "brash and aggressive, the 2000-era Montoya was anything but Penske material." But the "2013 version -- much more polished in terms of sponsor and media relations from his time in Formula One with Williams and McLaren and NASCAR with Ganassi -- is fully capable of handling the off-track demands of being a Penske driver." The signing is "a win/win for Montoya too: He's highly motivated to return to Indy cars, he's coming back by joining the sport's most prestigious team, and he maintains the ties with Chevrolet that he has built in NASCAR over the past seven years" (ESPN.com, 9/17). RACER.com's Robin Miller wrote this is "uncharted territory," as "no former Indy car stars have ever gone away, stayed out of an open wheel car for this length of time and returned full-time with any success" (RACER.com, 9/16).