Juan Pablo Montoya has announced earlier this week that he will not take part in this year Indianapolis 500 as he instead focuses on preparing for his first entry into the 24 hours of Le Mans. The Columbian, who has raced five times in the Indy 500, had been thought to have been searching for a seat after Team Penske opted not to run him this year.
Montoya confirmed in a statement yesterday that he would be missing the Indianapolis 500, a race that he has entered the last four years consecutively with Penske, to instead prioritize his commitments in the IMSA SportsCar championship whilst also continuing to prepare with United Autosports for Le Mans in June:
“I won’t be racing [in] the Indy 500 because I am fully focused on getting the Acura Penske to victory lane in the IMSA championship and my upcoming debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” Montoya said in a statement yesterday,
“I will be for sure watching as my team-mates go for a 17th win for Roger.”
When Montoya lost his full-time Verizon IndyCar Series ride with Penske at the end of the 2016 season, the team kept him on the books to race in 2017 Indianapolis 500 in an extra car. However, for 2018, Penske chose not to do this, despite the fact that Montoya seemed willing to run again.
It was thought that Montoya had been speaking to other IndyCar teams about possibly racing in an Indy-only entry, however, it emerged that Penske owner, Roger Penske, was blocking this due to the fact that Juan was still racing for him in IMSA. This emerged when Sam Schmidt of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports claimed earlier this year that Roger had barred a move for Juan to race for another team.
At the time, Roger had stated that Montoya was allowed to pursue another seat for the 500, saying: “If he wants to run for another team, that would be his decision. There would be nothing that we would say no too. It would be his decision completely.”
However, when asked to comment on yesterday’s news by Autosport, Penske’s statement said that: “Our official position is that our drivers typically don’t compete against us in other series,” which means that it is highly likely that Montoya was blocked from racing elsewhere after all.
Montoya first raced in the Indianapolis 500 back in the year 2000 with Chip Ganassi Racing. He managed to take a famous win on his first attempt, but he would not return to the event until 2014 after a long spell of competing in Formula 1 and the NASCAR Cup Series. He finished in fifth on his return, then racing for Penske, before following that up with another win in 2015.
Whilst Juan may be disappointed to be missing out on a chance to get a third win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his upcoming first attempt at the Le Mans 24 hours with United Autosports’ LMP2 entry gives him the opportunity to claim the ‘triple crown’, the accolade of being a former winner of the Indy 500, the Le Mans 24 hours and the Monaco Grand Prix; which Juan won for Williams back in 2003.
If Juan is able to win at Le Mans in his class, he will join Graham Hill as the only other driver to have ever won the triple crown. He will also beat Fernando Alonso to the landmark, with the Spaniard having repeatedly expressed his desire to win all three races.
The 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on May 27. Less than a month later, the World Endurance Championship will take to the famous Circuit de la Sarthe for the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, which takes place on June 16 and 17.