LONG POND — Juan Pablo Montoya is no stranger to Pocono Raceway, but this time will be different.
The Colombian driver will be behind the wheel of an IndyCar for next month’s Pocono IndyCar 500. Montoya made 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Pocono with a pole and a best finish of second.
He talked about how different the cars are from each other at the Tricky Triangle.
“It’s only a 40 mph different average, it’s not that big,” Montoya said. “Here (Pocono) is the only place NASCAR knows you have to downshift. We (IndyCar) run pretty much wide-open all the way around. It’s unbelievable.”
With IndyCars being able to run wide-open, the old track record at Pocono last year was shattered with a two-lap average of 221.273 mph set by Marco Andretti.
“It’s really challenging because all three corners are different,” Montoya added. “The tunnel turn is not that bad. I think it seems to be a pretty simple corner. Turn three is a flat corner where the entry is always an issue and turn one is really banked and is a little tighter corner. I think getting the balance right for all three corners is gonna be a challenge.”
NASCAR and IndyCar owner Roger Penske signed Montoya to an IndyCar deal after Chip Ganassi announced the 37-year-old driver wouldn’t be returning to his No. 42 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car in 2014.
Montoya spent seven years running full-time in the Sprint Cup Series which included a Chase for the Sprint Cup appearance in 2009 and two victories, including one in his rookie year in 2007.
He made a rare appearance in last weekend’s Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan driving the No. 12 SKF Ford for Roger Penske. Montoya wheeled the car to an 18th place finish.
“I felt going to Michigan this weekend was OK,” Montoya said. “The balance was well.”
Montoya also turned a lap over 200 mph in Sprint Cup Series qualifying last Friday, making him turn laps over 200 mph in both a stock car and IndyCar this season.
His racing career started in the CART Series by running for Ganassi in 1999 and won the championship in his rookie year. The next season he won the Indianapolis 500 in his first try.
Montoya and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon also did a car swap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2003.
Talks began circulating around Montoya to give stock car racing a try in late 2006 and he did, pairing up with his old CART owner Ganassi. The transition from open wheel to stock cars wasn’t easy.
“It was pretty hard but I haven’t done ovals in six years,” he said. “I had no reference for six years of what an oval was supposed to feel like. It was hard, but it wasn’t impossible and I felt we did a good job.”
He finished third at Talladega Superspeedway in an Autombile Racing Club of America (ARCA) race that October in his stock car debut.
Montoya currently sits seventh in IndyCar points with a best finish of third at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago.