Juan Pablo Montoya is back in NASCAR this weekend and still looking for his first victory on an oval track.
Montoya spent his entire NASCAR career with Chip Ganassi Racing, and even though he won races in the Sprint Cup (two) and Nationwide series (one), they were all on road courses.
Montoya, who now runs full time in the IndyCar Series for Team Penske, sees his two-race deal with Penske to run Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway and this year’s Brickyard 400 as providing a good chance at winning on an oval.
“To be honest with you, with the way Team Penske is running here it’s a (heck) of a chance,” said Montoya, who will start 28th Sunday in the No. 12 Ford. “You see Joey (Logano)’s comments sometimes and he says it was a terrible day and he finished fifth or sixth, so from my history here, I would have killed to have a car that would do that.”
Montoya, 38, said he looks forward to giving the NASCAR experience another go with a different organization.
“With Chip we had good years, bad years, good races, bad – we had everything,” said Montoya, who made 253 Cup starts from 2006 to 2013. “The way Team Penske is running right now, they look like every week they have a shot at winning.
“So, if we do a good job here and we have a decent race, we’ll easily get a top 10 and if I’m really comfortable in the car, we could even look at a win.”
Montoya, a native of Bogota, Colombia, was one of the world’s most promising open-wheel racers and one of the most versatile in 2006 when he left Formula One to join Ganassi’s NASCAR organization.
Only once during his tenure with Ganassi did he qualify for the Chase – in 2009, when he also finished a career-high eighth in the series standings. He did, however, finish second in the Brickyard 400 in 2007 and appeared to have a victory in hand there in 2009 after leading 116 laps but got caught speeding on pit road late in the race.
Montoya has made 14 career Cup starts at Michigan – a 2-mile oval – with three top-10 finishes. His best finish was sixth in the June 2009 race.
“I think this track, with my background in open wheel, coming here is going to play into my hands a little bit because it’s a really fast track,” Montoya said. “It’s a track you don’t brake, it’s a track where you’re really controlling the throttle, and you do that a lot in IndyCar.”
Although Montoya has yet to earn an oval-track victory, he has spent the most time of his motorsports career dedicated to NASCAR competition.
“If you think about every series I’ve done, the longest series I’ve been in, in my career, was NASCAR,” he said. “I was in Formula One for six years and I was here for seven,” he said.
“In IndyCar, I’ve only been there for 21/2, so I know the game here and it’s fun knowing that you’re not doing the whole season.”