In 2000, Juan Pablo Montoya put on one of the more dominant performances in Indianapolis 500 history, leading 167 of 200 laps en route to victory in his first – and only – run in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
But ask the sometimes brusque Colombian to reminisce about that time, and he’ll only show you that moving forward is his top priority.
“I don’t even think about that I won it, I don’t even look at it like that,” he said Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Why? [Because] you gotta focus on what you’ve gotta do today.
“I’m looking at videos of the race, of how people passed, of how people didn’t pass – what worked, what didn’t – and that’s it.”
The past is clearly the past with Montoya, who moved on to Formula One and then the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series before returning to IndyCar racing over the most recent off-season with Team Penske.
Montoya has not only had to mentally re-train himself to drive an open-wheel machine, but also train harder physically. So far, his work has yielded mixed results this Verizon IndyCar Series season. He finished fourth at Long Beach in a fine drive, but has finished 15th or worse in the other three races.
You figure that with more acclimation, more consistent results will follow down the road. Along with that, he’ll be likely to have understood just how far he can push this particular IndyCar, the Dallara DW12, to do what he wants.
“To get to the limit in NASCAR is a lot easier and then it becomes how well the car drives,” he said. “Here [in IndyCar], the limit is a lot further and knowing where the limit is, that’s a lot harder.
“You can push, you can push, you can push, and then you put two tires on and you gotta push again, and you gotta find more, find more, find more. That’s where experience pays off…
“…It’s hard to know where the limit is. You really don’t want to find out. Most of the time, when you find out, it’s already too late.”
And if there’s one place where you don’t want to go over that limit, it’s Indianapolis.
Montoya isn’t sure what to expect in Sunday’s 98th Running, where he’ll start on the inside of Row 4. As the fastest second-day qualifier last weekend, it would appear he has the pace to contend.
But in his mind, so do a lot of others; he figures that, including his own No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, there were “probably 10 to 15 cars” that are legit contenders for the Borg-Warner Trophy.
It will take a perfect performance from all parties – driver, equipment, strategist, the pit crew – to win the day at Indy. And Montoya knows that as good as anyone.
“I think we’ve got to go out there and see how the car behaves,” he said. “You have to work on it through the day, and make sure you have a good balance, and make all the right calls, and minimize the mistakes.
“It always is [a process]. Like every race, it has its things you’ve gotta be careful with and things you can abuse and that’s it.”