Skip to content

He’s baaaack: Juan Pablo Montoya has high hopes for NASCAR race at Michigan

Jun 13, 2014, 4:24 PM EDT

montoya3 Getty Images

Juan Pablo Montoya racing in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan likely boils down to one of two things:

1) He has some unfinished business from his previous seven-year stint in NASCAR, or,

2) Old habits are hard to break.

Whatever the case, while Montoya has returned to a full-time open-wheel ride in IndyCar this season, he just can’t fully quit stock-car racing.

Especially when he thinks he has a chance to win in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

“Absolutely, our goal is to win the race,” Montoya said. “Michigan is a huge race for Roger (Penske) and for the manufacturers. It would be an honor for me to be able to do that for them.

“We tested the No.12 Ford several weeks ago at Nashville and it was really quick. I felt like I got up to speed in no time. That said, we realize that it’s going to be difficult. The Cup Series is always evolving so when you aren’t in the car every week you can get behind easily. But I have two teammates that are among the fastest drivers every race (Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano), so I know the speed will be there to contend.”

Sunday will be the first of two Sprint Cup races Montoya will compete in this season, the other being the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis next month.

Montoya is enjoying the challenge of returning to IndyCar, currently seventh in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings, with three top-five finishes, including a season-best third-place showing last Saturday at Texas.

But don’t expect Montoya to make a full-time return to NASCAR anytime soon.

“For me it’s more of an opportunity to maybe win a race or two here,” Montoya said in a media session Friday at MIS. “This year we’ve got two really good shots. This is probably one of the best tracks for the Fords.

“They always excel here and have a car that can win, and the way Team Penske is running right now, if it clicks from the beginning, and we hope it does, we might have a shot at winning this.”

Montoya was twice in contention to win the Brickyard but ultimately came up short each time. In the past, he’s called failing to win there as one of the most frustrating defeats that continues to gnaw at him to this day.

“Going to the Brickyard is a place that I run really well,” Montoya said. “When we ran bad we were always in the top 10, so going there in a car like this you’re definitely looking at a shot at a win as well.”

Montoya hasn’t exactly had the greatest history at Michigan – with just three top-10 finishes in 14 starts – but he feels confident that Team Penske equipment will make up for his past shortcomings there, as well as serve as a tune-up for Indy.

“To be honest with you, with the way Team Penske is running here it’s a hell of a chance,” said Montoya, who will start 28th in Sunday’s race. “You see Joey’s (Logano) comments sometimes and he says it was a terrible day and he finished fifth or sixth, so from my history here I would have killed to have a car that would do that.

“Our goal here, I think, is we’ll take it as it comes this weekend, but the way really look at it is it’s really good preparation for the Brickyard.

“The way Team Penske is running right now, they look like every week they have a shot at winning, so if we do a good job here and we have a decent race we’ll easily get a top 10 and if I’m really comfortable in the car we could even look at a win.

“I think this track, with my background in open wheel, coming here is gonna play into my hands a little bit because it’s a really fast track. It’s a track you don’t brake, it’s a track where you’re really controlling the throttle and you do that a lot in Indy Car.

“Roger gave me the opportunity to come here and we want to make SKF (race sponsor) and the Ford group proud of what we can do.”

Added crew chief Greg Erwin, “Juan Montoya is a world-class driver. Any crew chief would want to work with a driver with that kind of experience. … It’s going to be a fun weekend. Obviously we aren’t worrying about points, so we are able to lay it on the line.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Latest Posts
  1. Carlin, Jones welcomed to America in their first weekend in Indy Lights

    Apr 1, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Photo: Carlin Photo: Carlin

    A double pole, double win debut weekend for Trevor Carlin’s team was a statement – but the team’s big takeaway was how different the U.S. environment is.

  2. Dixon on St. Pete: “The car was better than what I got out of it”

    Apr 1, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    DixonStP AP

    A challenging weekend for Scott Dixon occurs from qualifying through the race in St. Petersburg.

  3. Pierre Gasly to test for Toro Rosso at Barcelona

    Apr 1, 2015, 12:18 PM EDT

    ®GP2 Series Media Service ®GP2 Series Media Service

    Pierre Gasly to test STR10 after Spanish Grand Prix weekend in May.

  4. DiZinno: St. Pete provides solid 2015 season kickoff, but issues some warning signs

    Apr 1, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    STPcolumn AP

    While St. Petersburg had its positives as a weekend, Tony DiZinno reflects on two disconcerting themes that emerged from the race itself.

  5. American Alexander Rossi looks ahead to the GP2 season (VIDEO)

    Apr 1, 2015, 10:03 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Russia - Practice Getty Images

    Alexander Rossi looks ahead to the upcoming GP2 season.

  6. Off The Grid Mexico Kicks Off on NBCSports.com (VIDEO)

    Mar 31, 2015, 6:04 PM EDT

    Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg AP

    Off the Grid Mexico kicks off with episode one of a six-part digital series.

  7. Mardenborough, two spectators released from hospital after Nurburgring accident

    Mar 31, 2015, 4:17 PM EDT

    Photo: NISMO Photo: NISMO

    Jann Mardenborough and two spectators were released after this weekend’s VLN crash at the Nurburgring.

  8. Patron ESM heads to Paul Ricard (VIDEO)

    Mar 31, 2015, 1:52 PM EDT

    Photo: Extreme Speed Motorsports Photo: Extreme Speed Motorsports

    ESM recaps its test from the Prologue at Paul Ricard.

  9. IMS releases statement in wake of Indiana RFRA legislation

    Mar 31, 2015, 12:47 PM EDT

    IMS Pagoda Getty Images

    IMS statement comes out after Indiana’s recent religious freedom legislation.

  10. IndyCar notes: Rahal’s questionable penalty, one-off drivers, rookies have tough days

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT

    KimballRahal AP

    Catching up on the rest of the action from St. Petersburg, with a run through the moments of contact that triggered avoidable contact penalties.

  11. The Rolling Stones to hit IMS on July 4

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT

    StonesIMS

    Rolling Stones to play at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

  12. Spectator injured but in stable condition after being hit by debris at St. Pete race

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:33 AM EDT

    StpDebris AP

    Loose debris hit by a car, then goes over wall and hits a fan outside Turn 10 at St. Petersburg.

  13. Hawksworth, Filippi score solid top-10s to open season at St. Petersburg

    Mar 30, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    HawkStp15 AP

    Hawksworth, Filippi impress on opening outings with their new teams in St. Petersburg.

  14. Experience trumps youth on IndyCar’s opening weekend with aero kits

    Mar 30, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    JPMSTPwin AP

    IndyCar’s “old guard” reigned in St. Petersburg, as the new manufacturer aero kits debuted.

  15. Moto GP: Rossi wins opening-round thriller in Qatar

    Mar 30, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    MotoGP Qatar Getty Images

    Victory number 70 of the Italian’s remarkable Moto GP career.

  16. Ecclestone considering creation of all-female grand prix series

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:35 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - Practice Getty Images

    However, Williams test driver Susie Wolff believes that women should be reaching F1 in a more organic way.

  17. IndyCar: Bourdais opens strong for KVSH; Coletti impresses despite late stop for KV

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    SebStp AP

    KVSH’s Bourdais gets result after a consistent drive; KV’s Coletti stars but fades after late race splash-and-dash for fuel.