MAKING IT LOOK TOO EASY
Juan Pablo Montoya’s 1999 CART
Indy car championship had been Chip
Ganassi Racing’s fourth in a row with
the Reynard-Honda package, and he’d
scored seven wins, seven poles and led
954 laps. None of his rivals led much
more than one-third that number. But
for 2000, Chip switched to Lola chassis
and Toyota engines, and while Montoya
again dominated in terms of pace – seven
poles and 820 laps led – he finished
only eight of the 20 races. That limited
him to ninth in the CART points table
with just three wins (not including the
IRL-sanctioned Indy victory).
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic,
Formula 1 team owner Frank Williams
was already convinced that Montoya
was the guy to have on board to
partner Ralf Schumacher in 2001.
In fact, it was during Juan’s winning
weekend at the Brickyard that the
Sir Frank announced he’d signed the
Colombian to replace Jenson Button
the following year. JPM had caused an
even bigger stir in CART Indy cars than
his predecessor, Alex Zanardi, who’d
struggled to come to terms with the
demands of F1 in his one-year stay at
the Williams team in ’ 99. Montoya, who
as recently as 1998 had conquered
F3000, would have less to adapt to.
And so it proved. Over the next five
years, Montoya proved the only guy who’d
regularly take the fight to Michael
Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen.
By December 2000, Montoya was back in
Europe and learning the finer points of
driving the Williams-BMW Formula 1 car.
FORMULA 1 BECKONS
BACK AT THE DAY JOB...
and apologized to Montoya.
“He said, ‘Sorry to hold you guys up,’
and Juan shot back that, ‘It would be the
last time you’ll hold me up because you
won’t see me again,’” recalls Ganassi
team manager Mike Hull.
The race started with Ray leading the
first 26 laps, before Montoya muscled past
in a nifty move splitting a couple of lapped
cars. And that was it – game, set and match
as he led 167 of the remaining 173 laps
and stretched his lead to 13 seconds while
constantly begging his team to take some
push off his car so he could run faster.
Buddy Lazier closed to within a few car
lengths, before JPM vanished again in
traffic and then had a little fun at his
Ganassi team’s expense. “Juan called in
frantically and said the water temperature
was pegged,” says Hull, grinning at the
memory of Ganassi’s expression. “Then he
The “rookie” took the checkered flag
seven seconds in front of Lazier and then
managed a big smile in Victory Lane. But he
hadn’t gone crazy in the cockpit or on the
radio during the slow-down lap. Frankly,
he didn’t act all that excited – it was almost
like he’d expected to win.
“He’d already visualized winning the
race,” says Hull. “I think people
underestimated how mentally strong
Juan was at that age; he was like a
Four-time Indy winner Rick Mears,
spotting for Jason Leffler that day, called
JPM’s performance flawless, while the
Indy 500’s biggest name paid a huge
tribute afterwards. “That Monterier is a
helluva talent,” said A.J. Foyt.
So that was it. Montoya headed back to
the CART wars in Milwaukee, while the IRL
licked its wounds and went to Texas without
the newly-crowned Indy winner to promote.
Some 15 years after that stunning
stomping of the IRL, JPM was back in
Victory Lane at the Speedway following
a spirited duel with teammate Will Power.
It was obvious from his emotional cool-off
lap that this one meant more.
“And it was a lot tougher than the
first one,” he exclaimed.
Ray was the 1999
IRL champion, but
was left forever
frustrated at the
Brickyard. As well
as his pole in
2000, he started
from the front row
three other times,
yet his best finish
in the “500” was
eighth in 2003.
RAY OF HOPE
(LEFT) Chip Ganassi’s
“raid” on America’s
race started a trend
of CART teams trying
to beat IRL at Indy.
(FAR LEFT) Montoya
and Ganassi teammate
Jimmy Vasser. F.P