The Indy 500's Greatest 33: No. 23 - Juan Pablo Montoya
by Bill Potter
With 23 days remaining until the 100th Anniversary running of the Indianapolis 500, SB Nation Indiana is starting its countdown of the Greatest 33, the ultimate Indianapolis 500 field. Fans can build their own field by clicking here. Today, SB Nation Indiana looks at the last driver to go 1-for-1 at IMS, Juan Pablo Montoya.
During the Split, when CART and the IRL went head-to-head, a generation of drivers made limited appearances in the Indianapolis 500, or missed out on competing in the race altogether. Fortunately, Juan Pablo Montoya did make a single appearance in the Indianapolis 500, becoming the only driver to make a single appearance in the 500 and walk away with the win.
That Montoya won the 500 was not a surprise - he was the 1999 CART champion. His owner, Chip Ganassi, became the first CART owner to break ranks and return to Indianapolis after five years, setting in motion the rejoining of the two series in 2008.
Montoya qualified second in the race, and that seemed like a dubious spot for the Columbian, as no driver had won from the middle of Row 1 since Mario Andretti in 1969. However, Montoya stalked pole sitter Greg Ray over the first 26 laps, until Ray blinked, crashing and handing Montoya the lead.
From there, Montoya put on one of the most dominating efforts in the modern Indycar era, leading 167 of the final 174 laps in collecting the win. Watching the race in the IMS Paddock, the ease at which Montoya continually stretched the lead and controlled the race was remarkable. By the checkered flags, Montoya had lapped 27 cars and won by over 7 seconds.
Collecting Rookie of the Year honors as well, Montoya, like Jacques Villeneuve five years before him, would soon be off to the ranks of Formula One, where he would compete in the United States Grand Prix on the IMS road circuit from 2001-06.
Moving to NASCAR Sprint Cup in 2007, Montoya would once again dominate a race at IMS in 2009 at the Brickyard 400, but speeding on pit road in his final stop of the race, Montoya was forced to serve a drive through penalty, relegating him to 11th. The victory would have made him the first driver to capture titles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in both the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400.