Montoya to drive in IndyCar next year for Team Penske

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NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Juan Pablo Montoya will be returning to open-wheel racing after all. But who could’ve predicted that he’d be suiting up for Roger Penske?

Earlier today, Penske Racing announced that Montoya, the 1999 CART champion and the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner, will take the controls of the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet in the IZOD IndyCar Series on a full-time basis in 2014 – joining current series points leader Helio Castroneves and Will Power.

Montoya has spent the last seven seasons in Sprint Cup, but was recently informed that he would not return to Earnhardt Ganassi Racing next season. He had been linked to a possible IndyCar ride with Andretti Autosport, as well as a new Sprint Cup drive with Furniture Row Racing, which is losing Kurt Busch at season’s end.

But this past week, Montoya informed Andretti Autosport that he would not join them. Instead, he and “The Captain” will team up in what could prove to be a major overall boost, both on the track and off, for INDYCAR.

“I am really excited to join this legendary team beginning next year,” Montoya said in a statement. “I have had the opportunity to drive for some of the best racing teams in the world and I have always admired Roger Penske and his organization. I consider it an honor to be offered the opportunity to drive for Team Penske.”

In his own thoughts, Penske was equally cordial to Montoya.

“Juan is a proven winner at all levels of motorsport,” he said. “He has won a lot of races and championships and he has an extremely passionate fan base. We look forward to building on his successes together and we believe he will be a great addition to Team Penske.”

Following his success with Target Chip Ganassi Racing in CART, Montoya hopped the pond to Formula One, where he would compete with Williams (2001-2004) and then McLaren (2005-2006). After a six-year run in F1 that saw him capture seven Grand Prix wins, he made the massive switch to stock car racing full-time in 2007 with Ganassi’s NASCAR program.

Montoya was hyped considerably as a potential hook for NASCAR to grab the coveted Latino/Hispanic market. But while he’s been able to notch a pair of Sprint Cup wins (both on road courses), he’s been unable to truly escape mid-pack status in the series. He’s only made the Chase once, back in 2009, when he finished eighth in the championship.

But now, Montoya has a chance to revitalize his career. He’ll likely face a learning curve with the new-to-him Dallara DW12 upon his return to IndyCar, but one assumes that with his talent and the environment at Team Penske, he can get up to speed again before too long.

Racing Safety United aims to reduce the risk of injury to drivers

Racing Safety United
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Racing is an inherently dangerous sport.

The Racing Safety United (RSU) alliance aims to reduce some of that risk with the formation of a multi-discipline advocacy group that includes all major stakeholders of the sport: sanctioning bodies, drivers, track owners and equipment manufacturers – just to name a few of the many businesses that impact a driver’s welfare once they strap into the seat of a racecar.

Originally spearheaded by sports car driver RJ Valentine, the alliance initially intends to focus on track safety. Because expenses can be razor thin for short tracks, a financial aid program is in the works to help with safety upgrades.

“As a racer, I’ve witnessed a lot of horrible crashes and it always astounds me that, for the most part, the motorsports community continues to accept it, including drivers,” Valentine said in a press release. “Because safety improvement adoption is slow, I realized we need support from constituents in all sectors of motorsports to make any real changes happen.

“Initially, track safety is one of RSU’s top priorities, mainly because it receives the least amount of attention. However, we intend to address all safety areas from helmets to driver education.”

RSU’s first official meeting is scheduled on December 6th during the PRI Show to discuss and prioritize safety initiatives.

The RSU is currently made up of 30 members including former NASCAR driver Jerry Nadeau, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher, Flying Lizard owner Darren Law, Randy Lajoie – owner of The Joie of Seating, sportscar driver Andrew Pilgrim and journalist Dick Berggren.

More information can be found on the RSU site.