INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Life should be less stressful for Juan Pablo Montoya these days.
You see, the two-time Indy 500 winner lost his full-time ride last year, and when other options never really materialized, he decided to join Team Penske in a part-time role. That meant hopping into the car for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis a couple weeks ago and again for Sunday’s Indy 500.
But it also meant fewer sponsorship obligations. Fewer media requirements. And when his teammates stressed about Team Penske’s lousy qualifying weekend, it meant fewer sleepless nights.
“A lot of my teammates were really pissed about qualifying because they lost a whole lot of points,” Montoya explained, “but for me? Meh, I really don’t care.”
What does he care about? Karting.
That’s where the stress is coming from now.
Without the week-to-week grind of the IndyCar season, Montoya has more time to devote to his 12-year-old son Sebastian’s karting career. Montoya beams when he talks about spending a day-and-a-half last week, while other drivers were poring over data in anticipation of Indy 500 qualifying, working on the chassis and setup for Sebastian’s most recent karting race.
“But watching him race? It sucks,” Montoya said, speaking more animatedly than he does about his own career. “It’s completely out of your hands. It’s great when things are working well. When he doesn’t do a good job or the chassis isn’t working like it should, I get frustrated.”
So does Sebastian. And does he ever blame dear old dad when the car isn’t working right?
“A little,” Sebastian said, sheepishly.
“He’s starting to now,” Montoya said with a smile.
Montoya has been flying under the radar this month in Indianapolis, and that’s much different than previous years. He was the Penske prodigy returning to the site of his former glory when Montoya won in 2015, and he came back last year as the defending race winner.
But most of last season was a struggle, his team unable to find consistent speed, and he plummeted to eighth in the standings. Meanwhile, Simon Pagenaud won the series title and fellow teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves made it a podium sweep for Roger Penske’s prolific stable.
Montoya was told midway through the season he wouldn’t return as a full-time driver. Eventually, his ride was handed over to popular youngster Josef Newgarden.
Montoya doesn’t harbor any anger over the way things played out, though. He was pleased Penske provided a standing offer to drive the Indy 500, the only race that truly matters to him, and he’s happy to provide whatever help he can to Newgarden, his new teammate, if only for May.
“It’s just normal Juan,” Power said. “Obviously not having to be in the series and race week-in and week-out, he’s energized to do well. He did a great job in the Grand Prix race, was very fast. And I think he’ll be really good in the race on Sunday, too. It’s just normal Juan to me.”
Montoya said it’s unlikely he will return to a full-time IndyCar ride next year, and he acknowledged being “intrigued” by the idea of driving sports cars. That could even mean taking a shot at the 24 Hours of LeMans, where a victory would elevate him alongside Graham Hill as the only drivers to win the famed endurance race, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 - the Triple Crown of Motorsport.
“Is it in my mind I need to do this? No, not really,” Montoya said. “But if you get an opportunity to do the LeMans thing, it would be neat. Would it change my life if it doesn’t happen? Nah.”
Besides, Montoya has plenty of other pursuits.
He has a sleek MasterCraft skiing boat that he takes out wakeboarding. He enjoys watching his kids surf near their home in Miami. The whole family travels back to Colombia for holidays, and he admits to spending far too much time messing around with his radio-controlled airplanes.
Messing around with his son’s kart, too.
“We’re going to be doing four rounds of the European championship. We leave next week,” Montoya said, already looking past the Indy 500. “It’s been different. But it’s good.”
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