INDIANAPOLIS — Juan Pablo Montoya insisted he had the best car in the Team Penske stable — even to his three teammates, who all believed they were legitimate contenders to win the Indianapolis 500.
With the same confidence he showed 15 years ago when he routed the field, Montoya sliced his way through the field twice and won his second Indianapolis 500 on May 24.
“This is too much,” he said in victory lane, the winner’s wreath around his neck and the traditional bottle of milk in his hand. Flanked by his children, he looked everywhere for his wife.
It was a far different scene from 2000, when the fearless Colombian was single, childless and using Indy cars as a stepping stone to Formula One.
But his career has been a series of ups-and-downs through F1, NASCAR and finally back to IndyCar with motorsports icon Roger Penske.
His win gave Penske his 16th Indianapolis 500 win, and first since Helio Castroneves in 2009. Penske also joined Chip Ganassi as the only owners to win the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year. Ganassi did it in 2010; Joey Logano won the Daytona 500 for Penske in February.
The 15 years between Indy 500 victories are a record for a driver, surpassing A.J. Foyt, who needed 10 years between his third and fourth wins. That first win for Montoya? It came when he drove for Ganassi.
This victory was almost certainly going to go to a Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing driver. With a combined nine cars in the field, the two owners showed over the last two weeks that their organizations were head-and-shoulders above the competition.
Proving that Indianapolis is their own personal playground, Penske and Ganassi drivers led the majority of the laps on Sunday and turned the final restart with 15 laps to go into a three-car thriller between Penske teammates Montoya and Will Power, and Ganassi driver Scott Dixon.
Power finished second and Ganassi drivers Charlie Kimball and Dixon were third and fourth. The two team owners embraced on pit road as Montoya headed to grab his bottle of milk.
It was thought that the leader on the final lap would be a sitting duck, but Montoya didn’t care as he charged past Power with three laps remaining and stayed out front until the checkered flag.
“Montoya got that last run and maybe I was a bit nice to him into (turn) 1 and lifted,” said Power. “That was some serious racing there, a lot of fun.”
(JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer)