INDIANAPOLIS – On Wednesday morning, Team Penske announced that Josef Newgarden would drive their No. 2 Chevrolet in 2017 replacing Juan Pablo Montoya with the team. It was a move everyone saw coming as both sides have hinted about this possibility since July. Now, it appears why.
Tim Cindric took part in an IndyCar conference call on Wednesday and said that the team let Montoya know at Toronto back in July that the team had a place for him in 2017, but it wouldn’t be in the car on a full-time basis. That wasn’t good enough though for the Colombian as with how the 2015 season ended and how 2016 went, Montoya cites he’s got something to prove still.
“We were very upfront about that whole situation, and all along we’ve said that we would like him to be part of our team in the future,” Cindric said via the conference call. “That doesn’t necessarily mean driving our #2 car full-time. We talked to him about the fact we’ve got a seat for him at Indy if he wants one, and if we do a sportscar program, we want him to be involved in it.”
Montoya though, balked at that idea saying he wasn’t ready to hang up his helmet yet full time as he has more to prove.
“At that point in time, he said ‘I at least want to drive another season in IndyCar. I don’t want this to be my last season,” Cindric continued. “If it had been last year [when Montoya won the Indy 500 and finished runner-up in the championship] it would have been a little easier to take. But I feel like I have some unfinished business.’
“So we agreed to explore different options. So what he’s trying to do now is explore if there’s a full-season ride available. We’ve said our offer is open to him, and we’d love for him to continue with our team. It’s just something we needed to decide – whether we were going to position ourselves to [run Montoya] for another year and miss our opportunity to have Josef as part of our team for the future.
“It was a real difficult decision for us because Juan’s really been a big part of our success. Despite where he finished this year he really pushed our guys very hard, he’s been a great guy to work with, and we’d continue to love working with him in the future.
“So really the ball’s in his court. It’s not the first choice for him, but we’d like to continue some association with him if it makes sense for him.”
So, it means Montoya can continue with Penske in 2017, but it doesn’t sound like he wants to.