Juan Pablo Montoya over the year has been critized about his aggressive driving style, but says that’s something that he has never worried about.
“I’ve never been a big believer what people say about me, to be honest,” he said. “As long as I feel I’m doing a really good job, I’m driving the wheels off the car, the people I drive for are happy, that’s all that really matters.”
With a win in his pocket to start year, it goes without saying that Verizon and Team Penske are probably really happy with how things are going. Throughout Montoya’s open-wheel career, that has always seemed to be the case as he has been able to always put up the numbers when he is out on the track.
“When I was racing Formula 3, he was in Formula One,” Will Power recalls. “I think he was with Williams. He was phenomenal, the type of guy you really look up to when you’re a young guy racing in the junior categories.”
However, last season, he was off a little bit at the beginning of the year in his first year back in open-wheel competition since running NASCAR for about seven years.
“Juan was always going to be Juan,” Tony Kanaan said. “He’s good. I mean, I don’t understand whoever thought he wasn’t. Look back at the career that the guy had. Obviously took him a year to get a grip on things, and he’s back.”
Throughout the second half of the year, Montoya started posting top-five finishes, highlighted by a victory at Pocono Raceway. He also worked on his relationship with his teammates, in which Power says has worked out well.
“Juan has been known to be a tough teammate,” Power commented. “You hear rumors, that type of thing that go around. But he’s pretty honest. Like he’ll tell you straight up. I don’t think he beats around the bush, tries to play games or anything. Yeah, he’s good.
“I’ve enjoyed working with him. I’ve learned stuff off of him.”
Now a victory to the start the year, there’s already people discussing Montoya’s chances at the championship.
Running hard for race wins at the front of the field could bring forth the aggressive driving that we’ve seen in the past, adding excitement to the races. Kanaan feels that should come out this year as he hasn’t changed his personality.
“He’s going to bring a lot of entertainment this year, a lot more than last year, I would say,” Kanaan expressed.
“He’s a very tough competitor, tough racer,” Power added. “You know if he’s behind you or you’re racing with him, he’s very difficult to keep behind.”
With that, certainly the comments about Montoya’s driving are going to resurface, and that’s something that he’s fine with.
“When you’re out there, I’m still the same, if you want to call the asshole, whatever you want to call it, it’s good,” he said.
Though while the aggressive nature is certain to have not changed behind the wheel, Kanaan feels that he has changed lightly – grew up perhaps.
“Seeing Juan celebrating with the fans the way he did today, I can assure that wouldn’t have happened 15 years ago,” Kanaan commented. “But that was Juan back then. I think you go through experiences in life to learn. I think he got probably a pretty big wake-up call when he moved to the other side, to NASCAR, and he was just one more, right? You have big names there.
“I appreciate that on him. I think he learned that. Then when he came back here, he was a little bit of a different person. I can still see the old Juan sometimes on him, which it’s great to see. Juan is a good guy to have beside you, not against you. That’s the way I put it. That’s still there. But I think he has a big vision now for the fans and the people that care about the sport which I think in a way he didn’t before.”