Juan Montoya spent seven full seasons driving in the top NASCAR series. He qualified for the Chase in 2009, finding victory lane twice during his tenure. However, his two victories came at road courses, never finding victory on an oval course.
He had his chances. Last year saw him come oh-so-close to winning at Richmond last May, and this late lap pass by Tony Stewart cost him victory at Dover later in the year.
Perhaps the two biggest almost-wins in Montoya’s NASCAR career came at Indianapolis. Two years in a row he had the strongest car at the Brickyard, only to find defeat by way of a costly pit-lane speeding violation in 2009 (he was not happy about this). And while leading late once again in 2010, he and the #42 Ganassi team took four tires while other driver took two, putting him back in the pack where he would find contact with the wall, ending his chance at victory.
This weekend he returns, not driving for car owner Chip Ganassi as he did between 2007-2013, but with his current Verizon Indy Car team owner, Roger Penske. This is Montoya’s second ride in the Cup Series for Penske this year, with Michigan being the other start in the #12 Ford, finishing 18th.
Montoya sounds confident he can still find his first oval course victory in NASCAR, even as a part-time driver. In a USA Today article, he talks about his chances:
“I feel like we’ve got a good shot. I think at Michigan we wanted to understand the cars a little, I think we missed a little bit set-up wise, and I think that’s one of the key things is getting the car closer… I think if we can get the car close, we’ll be pretty good. I’ve been pretty good here, and I know what I want out of the car, so that makes it a lot easier so we know what we need to work on.”
For a driver, a win in the Cup Series while only racing a limited schedule is very hard to come by in today’s age. But having a Penske car is one of the best things going for the Colombian born driver. Brad Keselowski, in his Penske Blue Deuce, is in championship form, and Joey Logano is having the best season of his career in his #22 Penske Ford.
Can Montoya finally get that elusive NASCAR oval victory, solidifying his name as one of the most versatile drivers of his generation? Can he become the first driver to win both the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400, a feat that may never again be repeated? He surely has the racing skills, and he knows his way around the Yard of Bricks better than most anyone. I, for one, hope he can pull off what will surely be a historic victory.