By Dave Lewandowski/IndyCar.com
Juan Pablo Montoya did an animated double take after locating the bas relief image from his 2000 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race win and comparing it to the likeness affixed to the base of the Borg-Warner Trophy for his 2015 victory.
“I think I’ve aged gracefully,” he said.
Montoya, whose sterling-silver likeness was unveiled Dec. 9 during a ceremony at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, was the 102nd face added to the iconic trophy.
He became the ninth two-time winner of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” with a thrilling victory in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. After starting 15th and having on-track issues that placed him near the rear of the field midway through the 200-lap race on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, Montoya came back to take the lead for good on Lap 197 and hold off teammate Will Power by 0.1046 of a second.
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He’s replayed the closing laps of the race multiple times in his mind since May, and memories of the Victory Circle celebration washed over him upon returning to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Borg-Warner Trophy unveil.
“It’s very special to be here and see my face on the Borg-Warner Trophy. I didn’t get to see it after the win in 2000 until I came here for the F1 race,” said Montoya, who left Indy car racing to compete in Formula One. “Now that I’m here, you appreciate the history and what Indy is. It’s pretty amazing.”
Montoya is the 16th winner of the 500 Mile Race for Team Penske.
“It is special to win it for (team owner) Roger (Penske) and what it means to everybody at Team Penske,” Montoya said. “My face is on the trophy, but really everybody that worked on the car is there. It’s a huge team effort, and most people don’t realize how much the team is part of it.
“I want to thank everybody at BorgWarner, the Speedway and INDYCAR for all they do. The way the series is going is pretty exciting, and I’m looking forward to defending the title in the 100th Running of the Indy 500. Hopefully, next year we’ll win another one.”
The 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is May 29, 2016.
The Borg-Warner Trophy, which is permanently on display at the IMS Hall of Fame Museum, features the face of all Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winners, including two years in which co-drivers assisted the primary driver to Victory Lane, and track owner Anton “Tony” Hulman.
Separate squares are reserved on the sterling-silver body on which each winner’s name, average speed and winning year are engraved to complement the base relief image. The trophy is appraised at $3.5 million.
In 1935, the Borg-Warner Automotive Company (now called BorgWarner) commissioned designer Robert J. Hill and Spaulding-Gorham, Inc., of Chicago, to create the trophy at a cost of $10,000. Unveiled at a 1936 dinner hosted by then-Speedway owner Eddie Rickenbacker, the Borg-Warner Trophy was officially declared the annual prize for Indianapolis 500 victors. It was first presented that year to champion Louis Meyer.
Portrait sculptor Will Behrends has created the egg-size sterling-silver images since 1990. He welcomed Montoya into his North Carolina studio in September and was able to capture a mental image of the finished product.
“We got to know each other quite a bit,” said Behrends, whose most recent work – a marble bust of former U.S. Vice President Dick Chaney – was unveiled Dec. 3 at the U.S. Capitol. “Having him here was a tremendous help. What I got with him in that two hours is his sense of humor and other subtle things.
“I found it kind of a tricky image to work on because he has a very engaging, infectious smile and a twinkle in his eyes that are subtle things. It took me a little bit of time to get it right.”
To provide the winner with a personal keepsake, BorgWarner established the BorgWarner Championship Driver’s Trophy (also known as the “Baby Borg”) in 1988, which includes a duplicate image of the winner. The BorgWarner Team Owner’s Trophy was established in 1998. Both sterling-silver replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy will be presented during the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit on Jan. 13, 2016.