Verizon IndyCar Series: Juan Pablo Montoya Looks To Improve

For Juan Pablo Montoya, last year was a homecoming of sorts.

After a 14-year absence from IndyCar Series, Montoya made his highly anticipated return to the sport that propelled his career. During his time away, the Colombian native achieved worldwide popularity and success, thanks to his time in both Formula One and NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.

But what was it for the former Indianapolis 500 winner that made a return to IndyCar so enticing?

“I always had it in the back of my mind that it would be cool to drive IndyCar again,” he admitted. “The chance to drive for Team Penske and for Roger [Penske] was something I always wanted to do.”

Montoya knew he was returning to something special and quickly reacclimated himself – this time, driving the No. 2 car for Team Penske in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The 2014 season proved, in large part, to be an inconsistent one for Montoya, with just one win coming at Pocono Raceway. However, after a slow start to the season, Montoya turned it on at the end – finishing in the top five in each of the last three races. Just as the season was ending, Montoya was getting into his groove.

Last season, Team Penske dominated with Australian native Will Power taking home his first IndyCar championship, while Brazilian native Helio Castroneves finished 62 points behind him. This time around, Power, Montoya and Castroneves will respectively drive the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 vehicles.

But Team Penske wasn’t done there. To help bolster its lineup this season, the powerhouse added French driver Simon Pagenaud, who finished fifth in the standings a year ago with Schmidt-Peterson Racing – marking the first time in history Team Penske will field four cars for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The addition of a fourth driver was something Montoya welcomed.

“Adding Simon [Pagenaud] was a great addition,” he added. “I think the timing of it is really important.”

Teams might need all the help possible this season, given the implementation of aero packages. Aero kits, as they’re more often referred to, differentiate the shape of the vehicles with separate specifications for road and street courses, as well as short ovals and speedways. With two major manufacturers – Chevy and Honda – supplying the kits, drivers will witness an overall improvement in performance by increasing downforce, allowing for higher speeds and better handling in corners. There are a number of ways the kits can be put on, meaning the addition will also provide each car with a look of individuality – which translates to lots of testing and information for drivers.

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“It’s exciting to see two manufacturers going at it again – it brings a lot of interest to the teams,” Montoya said. “You’re going to see a different approach to races. You got to pay attention more to what you do and what the other Chevy teams do – it’s definitely the way forward. I think the cars are going to be much quicker – I would think we’re going to go at least a second per lap quicker.”

Every second counts, not just for Montoya but for every driver. And while he might be in the twilight of his career, Montoya hopes this is the year – the year he finishes victorious.

“I’m hoping to put all the years together. We have great potential to have an awesome year. I feel like in the ovals, I’m as good as anybody and I feel in road courses and street courses I think the race pace is pretty good. It’s a work in progress and we’re on the right track.”

The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series kicks off Mar. 29 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Catch all the action live, beginning at 3 p.m. EST, on ABC.


Ed Miller is a contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar