Juan Pablo Montoya is a racing driver from Colombia who participated in many different major racing competitions, including Formula One, NASCAR, CART, IndyCar Series or IMSA SportsCar Championship.
He left the most significant trail in the North American open-wheel racing, scoring fifteen wins in total (CART and IndyCar), including two victories at Indianapolis 500 in 2000 and 2015. He was CART Championship Series laureate in 1999.
In Formula 1, Montoya recorded 94 starts and seven wins. He was also a race winner in the NASCAR Cup Series and three-time winner of 24 Hours of Daytona. Most recently, in 2019, he won the championship title in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, driving an Acura AR-05 prototype for Acura Team Penske.
When describing Montoya, one might reach for both sides of the coin: he has a raw talent and huge passion for racing, but sometimes, it can be the very thing preventing him from showing all of his potential and qualities.
Be that as it may, one thing is indisputable - few drivers in motorsport history can match the credentials of Montoya who once said: "I don't remember the first time I won. I remember the first time I lost, and it sucked. It was go-karts; I was, like, 6 years old".
Montoya was taught with the techniques of karting from an early age by his father Pablo. In 1992, he made his debut in Colombian Formula Renault where he won eight races. At the same time, he went to the Skip Barber driving school in the USA where he was hailed as one of the best drivers ever to come through that school.
After successes in various minor competitions like Formula N in Mexico and British Formula 1, he moved to Formula 3000 with RSM Marko team in 1997. In his rookie season, Montoya was second in the championship standings, claiming victory in three races. Williams F1 team noticed his talent and offered him the test driver position for the following year. In 1998, alongside his duties in Williams, Montoya competed for McLaren in Formula 3000 and won the title with four victories and a total of nine podiums in 12 rounds.
The Colombian moved into CART series in 1999 and immediately won the title, becoming the youngest driver to win the series after he was the fastest in seven races which gave him advantage ahead of Dario Franchitti who had equal number of points, but only three race wins. But, even after winning the title, Montoya was criticized for his aggressive style of driving.
In 2000, he won the prestigious Indy 500 race for the Chip Ganassi team after he was the leader in 167 of 200 laps. He beat all the odds and predictions made by the well known racers like Al Unser Jr. who said that Montoya will 'burn-out' if he doesn't respect the track.
The next step in his career was Formula 1. He signed a two-year contract with Williams BMW in which he stayed until 2004. Montoya won four races in his time with Williams and was third twice in the overall standings (2002, 2003). In 2005 and 2006, he was the driver of McLaren Mercedes. Montoya won three races in his first season with the new team, but in the following season he left after disappointing performances.
His time in the most popular racing series was marked by ups and downs. During the 2003 season, Montoya was considered to be one of the main title challengers, but the truth was that his car lacked strength and consistence. Montoya was often criticized for his driving style, but as always, he just shrugged off the negativity and kept on driving.
NASCAR was Montoya’s next destination, but his results were far from the expected. In eight seasons, Montoya won only two races – one in Sprint Cup and one in Nationwide series, although he won NASCAR Rookie of the Year award in 2007. "You know, I think in Europe NASCAR is not regarded as high as it should," the Colombian once stated.
In 2014, he returned to IndyCar with Team Penske and was fourth in the overall standings, scoring one victory, while in 2015, again as a driver of Team Penske, he was runner-up with the same number of points as champion Scott Dixon, but with less number of race wins (2) compared to the three achieved by Dixon.
In his third year with Penske team, Montoya scored a victory in the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, later finished 3rd at Detroit and Sonoma, and eventually finished 8th in the championship.
He stayed with the team in the 2017 IndyCar Series but only for two races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He finished 10th in the IndyCar Grand Prix and 6th at the Indianapolis 500.
For the 2018 season, Montoya accepted a new challenge with Team Penske, entering the IMSA SportsCar Championship with brand new Acura ARX-05 DPi prototype. One of his goals is to score his fourth victory at Daytona 24 Hours, this time, as a full-time driver.
Earlier in a career, he won three times at 24 Hours of Daytona, always as a driver of Chip Ganassi Racing team, joining the team as an endurance co-driver only. In 2007 and 2008 he was behind the wheel of Riley MkXI-Lexus, while in 2013 he drove a Riley MkXXVI-BMW. In 2008 and 2013 he shared the cockpit with Scott Pruett who is one of two most successful drivers at 24 Hours of Daytona.
In 2018, his first year with Acura Team Penske in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, Montoya and his co-driver Dane Cameron scored four podiums to finish fifth in the points.
They became more competitive 2019, taking the first win in the fourth round at Mid-Ohio and then two more at Detroit and Laguna Seca. In the end, Montoya/Cameron clinched the championship title with 5-points advantage over the nearest rivals.
Interesting fact about Montoya's career is that he won races like Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of Daytona and Italian Grand Prix in his first attempt.
He is still missing a victory at 24 Hours of Le Mans. He made a debut in the French endurance classic in 2018, driving a Ligier LMP2 prototype for United Autosports. He was sharing a car with Hugo de Sadeleer and Will Owen, finishing third in LMP2 class and seventh overall.
Montoya and his wife Connie have three children - son Sebastian and daughters Paulina and Manuela. He and his family have been living in Miami since the early 2000s, though Montoya had owned residences in London and Madrid during his Formula One years.