Roger Penske can still savor Juan Pablo Montoya’s Indy 500 win
DETROIT (AP) — Roger Penske hopes he can enjoy a milestone year in more ways than one.
Team Penske is celebrating its 50th year in racing, and what better way to mark that anniversary than with another victory at Indy in late May?
“We want to win the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500,” Penske said.
Penske and Juan Pablo Montoya were in Detroit on Wednesday night, celebrating their win in last year’s Indy 500. Montoya was in town to receive his “Baby Borg” trophy. The Baby Borgs are smaller replicas of the Indy 500’s Borg-Warner Trophy.
Montoya’s victory in 2015 gave Penske his 16th Indianapolis 500 win and first since 2009. Over seven months later, Wednesday’s ceremony was another chance to savor the victory.
“It's a great way to kick off our 50th anniversary year of course, to have your arm around the Borg-Warner Trophy for a 16th win,” Penske said.
Team Penske announced plans earlier this month for a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary in motorsports, including exhibits about the team at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
Against the backdrop of all that hoopla, Penske’s drivers will try to succeed on the track. The 40-year-old Montoya said there shouldn’t be any extra pressure or motivation.
'“If you’re going to work harder this year, it means you have not been doing your job,” he said. “From that point of view, you can’t really change anything.”
Montoya was struggling after seven tough seasons in NASCAR when Penske called him in late 2013. Montoya accepted the chance to come back to Indy cars and finished fifth in the standings in 2014. Last year, Montoya lost a tiebreaker for the Indycar championship when Scott Dixon caught him on the final day of racing.
But it was Montoya who won the biggest race of the season, holding off teammate Will Power for his second Indy 500 victory. The first was 15 years earlier, a gap between wins that is the longest in the history of the race.
“Juan is a special guy. He’s a hard-nosed driver. He’s very committed to his team” Penske said.“Winning two Indy 500s—he’s only been there three times—pretty amazing.”
Montoya won his first start in the Indy 500 back in 2000, and it wasn’t clear when he’d be back. The talented Colombian moved on to Formula One and later to NASCAR.
In fact, Wednesday’s trophy ceremony was a bit of a novelty for Montoya. He said he didn’t participate in anything like it after winning the 2000 race.
“This is my first time doing everything,” he said. “The last time, I was in Formula One. I moved to Europe. I wasn’t flying back from Europe to get a trophy.”
There’s no telling how many times Montoya could have won the Indy 500 if his career path had been different—if he’d raced in it more often. But last year’s victory was a reminder of his abilities as an open-wheel driver—and another major accomplishment for a racer who is still relevant after his career reached a highly publicized crossroads.
“Formula One driver, NASCAR driver and Indy 500 winner,” Penske said. “You can’t have a better resumé.”
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister