Forget the fact, for a minute, that Juan Pablo Montoya failed to complete a season-long run of leading the points every single race and convert it into the Verizon IndyCar Series championship last season.
The fact he was in that position to begin with this past year in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet is exactly why Roger Penske hired him, because it was a case of matching one of this generation’s most successful driving talents with arguably this generation’s most successful team.
Penske expanded on what hiring Montoya prior to 2014 meant during Wednesday night’s ceremony when both were awarded their Baby Borgs.
“I had known Juan for such a long time,” Penske told MotorSportsTalk in a phone interview. “I saw him come in with Chip (Ganassi), win the (Indianapolis) 500, win the championship, and go into F1.
“Many times, we talked about the chance to drive for us. We had the door open, we understood that, we talked to him and hired him. It was absolutely the right move.”
Penske also explained how Montoya has invigorated the No. 2 team, led by engineer Brian Campe.
“He’s aggressive. But he’s a real team player. He’s an individual. He doesn’t run the setup that everyone else does. He cares a a lot about the people working on that car. He’s fully dedicated, more dedicated than I thought he would be.
“He was also an individual big enough to admit he’d been out six-seven years and he needed to catch up. His first year was training time, and you saw what he was able to accomplish in 2015 and he’ll be a real force in 2016.”
High praise from a man who is owed much praise himself, in the year when his team turns 50 and when the race where his team has earned the most success – the Indianapolis 500 – celebrates its 100th running.
Montoya returns for his third season with Team Penske in 2016 alongside a similarly strong trio of Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.