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Indianapolis 500 Champion Montoya Brings Renewed Enthusiasm For Firestone 600

FORT WORTH, Texas (June 3, 2015) Juan Pablo Montoya, the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner and current Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader, has found new life in the series as a member of Team Penske. 

>He turned back the clock 15 years with his May 24 victory at Indianapolis, to a time when he left Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) and North America to compete in Formula One after winning the Indy 500 in 2000.  

Now back in open-wheel racing in the United States with the Verizon IndyCar Series, along with heralded team owner Roger Penske a.k.a The Captain, the 39-year old Montoya is putting the memories of his tumultuous F1 days and often-disappointing NASCAR stint behind him.  

He appears to be back where he belongs, and where he seems to exhibit his utmost brilliance behind the wheel.  

That brilliance will be on display when he returns to Texas Motor Speedway for Saturday evening's Firestone 600, beginning at 7:30 p.m. CT. The event will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network and also on radio nationally at INDYCAR Radio, Sirius XM Radio, IMS Network and locally at KRLD-FM 105.3 The Fan. 

"I'm blessed to be at Team Penske and to have everyone's support," Montoya said. "Something I got when I joined Penske is that I got the love of racing back. I have that passion again that I know every week we have a chance of winning." 

Montoya enjoyed some success in NASCAR as he notched two career victories with Chip Ganassi Racing, the same organization he dominated CART with and also earned a series title in 1999. In the 2009 and '10 seasons with Ganassi, he showed great promise in stock cars by registering a win, 13 top-five finishes and 32 top 10s. Those types of days are the ones he is reliving now. 

"I had that same feeling in 2009 and 2010 when our cars (with Ganassi in NASCAR) were really good," he said.  

Then something changed.  

From 2011-13, his final season in NASCAR, he was unable to get a victory and had only six finishes among the top five. He was unaccustomed to being uncompetitive in any form of racing and was becoming disenchanted. 

"When you go into a weekend thinking that if we do extremely well, we will finish 15th, that's just not racing," he added. 

The opportunity arose to return to Indy-car racing with powerhouse Team Penske last season and he jumped at the chance. Despite having to make the transition from stock cars to Indy cars, he had a strong campaign with a win, eight top-five finishes in 18 starts and a fourth-place finish in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship. 

This season, he opened the season strong with a win at St. Petersburg and has not looked back since. He was enjoying the top spot in the championship standings, but the Indy 500 triumph was an emotional and historical moment for the native Colombian. 

Montoya set a record for the longest span between Indy 500 victories - 15 years. He also joined his Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves as the only drivers in race history to win twice in their first three Indianapolis 500 starts. 

"I don't do it for the resume," Montoya said. "I race because I love it. Being here in INDYCAR with Team Penske, it's been amazing. I'm just trying to win more here. We've got two wins this season. Right now that is what I've told my guys, 'At this point you've got to dig deeper because it's not going to be easy." 

Besides enjoying his on-track results, he also seems to like the fact that he is one of the veteran drivers that is having success. 

"I went to the award ceremony (the day after the Indianapolis 500) and everyone told me I was really, really old," Montoya recounted. "Then they would say, 'I used to watch you when I was young,' and my response was 'thank you'. At the end of the night, I said 'Helio, you are 40 and I'm 39 and between us we have five wins. How many do you guys got?' I had to give some of that back." 

Montoya made 17 NASCAR starts at Texas Motor Speedway, 14 in Sprint Cup and another three in the XFINITY Series, with a best finish of seventh coming in Sprint Cup in the spring of 2009. 

He will be making just his second Indy-car start at Texas in Saturday's Firestone 600, but he didn't have to wait very long to achieve success in this series on the ultra-fast, 1.5-mile oval. Last year, he qualified fourth and led 13 laps en route to a third-place finish.  

"Big ovals like Texas are good for us. We had to come from the back of the pack (last year) and we did good. I'm so open-minded about it and I think that really helps. I don't get worked up if I qualify bad or if we have an issue."

Tickets for the Firestone 600 are available by calling the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.

About the author

The Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department is located on the 6th floor of The Speedway Club outside of Turn 1 of the speedway. 

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