Passion, not stats, continues to fuel Juan Pablo Montoya

Photo: LAT USA/courtesy Steve Shunck

Statistically and versatility speaking, Juan Pablo Montoya is one of the greatest drivers of his generation.

He’s won two championships (1999 CART, 1998 Formula 3000), 14 total IndyCar races over parts of four seasons including two Indianapolis 500s (received his likeness on Borg-Warner Trophy last week), seven Formula 1 races including Monaco in 2003, two Sprint Cup races, one Xfinity race, and three Rolex 24s at Daytona.

And that’s before you get to all the pole positions (17 in IndyCar, 13 in Formula 1), fastest laps and other accolades over the years.

I bring up all these statistics a., because I’m a self-admitted stat nerd and b., so you know what they are.

Because Juan Pablo Montoya simply does not care about statistics.

He just cares about winning, and his passion for winning fuels him, still, at age 40.

“I don’t do it for that, to say, ‘God, I’m the man,’” Montoya said during Wednesday’s Chevrolet champions celebration event at the GM Heritage Center.

“I like racing, I have the passion for it, I want to beat everyone else, do a better job than everyone else, work harder than everyone else, and that’s it.”

It’s that passion that arguably burned him in the immediate moment of losing this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship – the infamous “Dixon had a s*** season” line in the post-race press conference at Sonoma standing out the most. But, as he showcased the Monday night afterwards, he got over it rather quickly and was even poking a bit of fun at himself.

And it’s the passion of his team boss, Roger Penske, that also continues to push him to do better.

Penske didn’t grow to become the most successful car owner and one of the country’s largest automotive dealers by standing still. He sought to win, at every opportunity, at all opportunities.

He’s the last man in history to have ever assembled now a one-off special for the Indianapolis 500; the pushrod Mercedes-Illmor engine that dominated the 1994 race lives in history 20-plus years later in Jade Gurss’ instant hit, “Beast.”

Adding a driver of Montoya’s caliber, who’s similarly motivated to winning with nothing else mattering, was arguably one of the biggest coups – and greatest additions – in the last two decades of IndyCar.

“You know I am really excited to be a part of this,” Montoya admits. “I never thought that I’d be back in IndyCar.

“But to watch the video (of the Indianapolis 500) is pretty exciting.

“Last year I was good, but it was my first oval back in IndyCar. This year I was a lot more aggressive. The NASCAR helped me to do 500-mile races.”

Considering Montoya’s open-wheel record on 500-mile races though (here we go with stats again) that seems a bit of a reach.

In 11 career open-wheel 500-mile races, Montoya has four wins, 10 top-five finishes, an average finish of 3.2, 2469 of 2500 laps completed, and 440 laps led.

Montoya at GM Heritage Center. Photo by Steve Fecht for Chevrolet
Montoya at GM Heritage Center. Photo by Steve Fecht for Chevrolet

Asked what about Penske inspires Montoya, the Colombian had a simple answer.

“Him,” he said, no hesitation.

“He’s such an amazing person… as a driver to be with him, it’s just unbelievable.”

Montoya isn’t necessarily drawing down his career – even at 40, he was one race away from his second IndyCar championship, some 16 years after his first – but he is fostering his own son, Sebastian, now 10, who has his own burgeoning karting career.

The elder Montoya says it’s his job to stay out of the way and let Sebastian grow on his own.

“I try to keep it really cool for him, you know what I mean?” JPM said. “Especially at his age, he has to enjoy it.

“Part of my success is the passion I have for racing. So he needs to have that.

“When he turns 14, 15 and starts looking at girls, the car needs to be more exciting than a girl. That’s where it’s gonna be. It’s gotta be fun.

“He loves it. He has a lot of passion. I try to keep it really down to earth. I don’t want to put any extra pressure on him that he doesn’t need. He’s done good. Some weeks he struggles, some he does good.”

Proof clearly the passion is in the pipeline from one generation of Montoya to the next.

And so long as Juan Pablo Montoya continues to have the passion for kicking ass and taking names as he continues to drive, whatever field he’s competing in should be very afraid.

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change