After it sounded like Andretti Autosport had gained ground on trying to bring 1999 CART Champion and 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya to IndyCar, RACER has confirmed that Montoya has declined the offer.
Where Montoya ends up next season is yet to be determined. He has also been linked to a potential United Sports Car Racing ride, and according to NBC Motorsports Talk’s Chris Estrada he has been in talks with Furniture Row Racing to replace the departing Kurt Busch.
The chances of Montoya landing back in IndyCar are slim at this point. Chip Ganassi’s 3 car team in IndyCar has been rumored to expand to 4 cars, so unless Ganassi wants to put Montoya back in IndyCar himself, it looks as if it may not happen.
During his two year tenure in CART, Montoya was nothing shy of spectacular. Inheriting the car that Alex Zanardi won the 2 previous championships and being paired with the 1996 champion Jimmy Vasser, he was naturally expected to do well. He amassed 10 wins in 40 starts, (that’s a 25% winning percentage) led 1774 laps and won 14 poles. Winning the championship as a rookie during that time was no easy feat, the cars were challenging to drive, the series had a myriad of tracks from superspeedways, short ovals and road and street circuits. His win in the 2000 Indy 500 was needless to say dominating, leading 167 laps.
He had an aggressive driving style and wanted to lead every lap all the while making it stick.
In F1, Montoya was one of a few drivers (until Fernando Alonso) that could challenge Michael Schumacher during his prime.
During his return to America to run NASCAR, he has won the 24 Hours of Daytona 3 times.
His stock car career has been lackluster compared to his open wheel career. He has only won 2 races, both on road courses at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen. His performance on the ovals has not been horrible by any means and he has performed well and had it not been for ill timed cautions or speeding on pit road, he had a few races won. He made the Chase in 2009 and started out very well, but he faded late in the Chase and finished 8th in the final standings. Other than that, he and his team have struggled and have ran mostly mid pack. However, of all of the open wheel drivers that have crossed over to NASCAR in recent years, Montoya has gotten a hold of stock cars better than Dario Franchitti, A.J. Allmendinger, Danica Patrick and (at first) Sam Hornish, Jr.
Stock cars aside, it would be interesting to see what JPM could do in an IndyCar. With IndyCar racing being more competitive like the days of CART when Montoya originally ran, he would have a similar playing field. The bigger idea is that is open wheel racing been Montoya’s calling all along. His stats in open wheel racing speak for itself- he is one of the very best out there.
Much like A.J. Allmendinger, while he didn’t win a championship in Champ Car, he was a rocket with a good team in Forsythe and when he jumped in Roger Penske’s car at the Indianapolis 500 and had it not been for his belts coming loose he would have had something at the end of the race. His NASCAR career however, didn’t get off to a good start and has not been too spectacular.
When it comes down to money, it makes more sense for him to stay in NASCAR. The sad truth is that he can find a full time ride and still earn a better wage than most of the IndyCar crowd.
There is no shortage of talent in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and he would have been a nice addition and as Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Mike Hull told Autosport:
“Quite frankly there is no reason to have people like Juan driving in this series if we can’t improve the brand of the series through having him here. I think we’re missing opportunities with several of the drivers who are in the series now.”