NASCAR fans everywhere rolled their eyes when Chip Ganassi announced that he was putting Formula 1 sensation Juan Pablo Montoya in one of his Sprint Cup cars for the 2007 season. After the lackluster debut of Hideo Fukuyama in 2002, fans decided that drivers who don’t speak English as their native language can’t drive stock cars. It was a lot to ask of fans who were just getting used to drivers not having Southern accents to accept a driver from another country.
Montoya quickly set about silencing the opposition by winning at Sonoma and gathering three top-five and six top-ten finishes along with 2007 Rookie of The Year honors.
The sophomore jinx hit Montoya hard in 2008 with a staggering nine DNFs. His best finish was second at Talladega. He collected one more top five and three top tens. This was not as much a reflection of Montoya’s ability as it was an issue of consistency in the pits. He worked with three different crew chiefs during 2008, which had to have an effect on his performance. To be fair, Montoya isn’t the easiest driver to handle if you’re on top of the pit box, as seen by the examples below:
Whatever issues Montoya had in 2008 seemed to disappear when the 2009 season got into full swing. By June, Montoya found himself in the Chase – on the bubble, but still in the Chase. We would not be surprised if he finds his way into Victory Lane again in 2009.
Montoya married the stunning Connie Freydell in 2002, and together they formed the Formula Smiles Foundation. The charity uses sports as a way to help improve the lives of Colombian children, and Montoya himself organizes several events every year. One of these events is a helmet design contest. Not only does Montoya wear the helmet, the winner gets to accompany him to a race.