After being thrown to the wind earlier this summer by Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, Juan Pablo Montoya has taken steps to return to IndyCar competition -under Roger Penske’s wing.
Montoya signed a deal with Penske Racing Monday, officially joining the team next season as a teammate to Will Power and Helio Castroneves. He will come back to the series he left thirteen years ago to start an endeavor into Formula One and, eventually, stock car racing.
A lackluster career in NASCAR has only brought the Colombian two road course wins in 244 starts, and the highlight of his seasons would have to be causing a jet dryer explosion during the 2012 Daytona 500. With a 2000 Indy 500 title and 10 wins in CART, it’s safe to say Montoya belongs in the open-wheel class.
“Of course I wanted (more success),” Montoya said of his journey in NASCAR. “It’s been an uphill battle mentally and physically, but I know in the back of my mind that I can do it.”
The talk with Penske began at Michigan International Speedway last month, right after it was announced the driver wouldn’t be returning to EGR. President Tim Cindric came up to him, asking what next year’s plans were, and that’s how the talks began. Montoya then turned down Andretti Autosport and Furniture Row Racing to solidify his newfound bond with the NASCAR/IndyCar organization.
The No. 42 that he currently drives will be filled by young phenom Kyle Larson. With another seat filled, that leaves FRR without a driver. That ride may be piloted by Jeff Burton next season.
Montoya has had a roller coaster time in NASCAR, and moving back to IndyCar may keep everything on the tracks.