Share “IndyCar drivers would welcome back J.P....”

IndyCar drivers would welcome back J.P. Montoya

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 24, 2013 at 9:14 pm •  Published: August 24, 2013
Advertisement

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — If Juan Pablo Montoya returns to IndyCar next year, he'll get a warm welcome from the drivers he'll have to beat.

Michael Andretti is looking for sponsors for an IndyCar ride for Montoya, who is leaving Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team. Montoya says he hasn't decided where he's going next, but several drivers at Sonoma Raceway think he belongs back in American open-wheel racing, which left in 2001 for Formula One, followed by an underwhelming foray into NASCAR.

"It would be nice to see him with a smile on his face," said Dario Franchitti, a longtime teammate who drives for Ganassi's IndyCar team.

Montoya spent the past seven years in NASCAR, winning just twice in 239 starts with Ganassi teams. Yet the 37-year-old Colombian still is widely considered an elite driving talent, and he had his best years in open-wheel racing.

Franchitti has been racing against Montoya since even before their days in CART more than a decade ago, and the Scot has teamed with Montoya at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

"I think it would be great for the series, and I think it would be great for Juan Pablo, if he wants to do it," said Franchitti, who's on the pole for Sunday's IndyCar race in Northern California wine country.

"I know how good a driver he is," Franchitti added. "I'd like to think, coming back here, he would get his motivation back and put a smile on his face. I would love to see it happen. He's definitely got the hunger, and I think he's at the stage of his life and his career that he's only going to do something that he wants and he can enjoy."

That something just might be IndyCar, which could use his talent and star power — and Andretti is trying to make it happen for his former opponent. Ryan Hunter-Reay would likely be Montoya's teammate at Andretti Autosport, if sponsors can be found.

"I think having Montoya in the series, or in the team, would be good," Hunter-Reay said. "I'm open to it. I haven't heard anything about it, (but) I think he'd be great for the series. He's one of the top talents in the world, and it would be great to race against him."

Montoya is exploring his options as a free agent, and they aren't limited to IndyCar.

Although there aren't many quality NASCAR seats currently available, a spot at Furniture Row Racing will open up if Kurt Busch moves to Stewart-Haas Racing, which is eagerly courting him. Montoya could be a candidate to replace Busch.

Continue reading this story on the...