Juan Pablo Montoya prepares himself for IndyCar challenges

Jerry Markland

Juan Pablo Montoya hasn't driven an Indy car since 2000 but he believes the current car may suit his driving style.

Juan Pablo Montoya has spent the past seven years competing in NASCAR and it's an experience he believes will help him in his return to the IndyCar Series next season for Team Penske.

"I think you learn so many things about the cars that you will never understand, or believe or see," Montoya said over the weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "There are a lot more basic things that you ignore in open wheel...There are a lot of things to learn.

"And as I said at the beginning of this week, it is going to be an uphill battle in a lot of ways, but I am looking forward to the challenge."

He faces many of the same challenges that AJ Allmendinger endured in his brief return to IndyCar last season. Allmendinger competed in five races for Penske last season and led laps in the Indianapolis 500 but struggled to adapt on road and street courses in the radically revolutionary IR-12 chassis.

Like Allmendinger, Montoya has a background in open wheel racing, earning the 1999 CART championship, a victory in the 2000 Indianapolis 500 and seven Grand Prix wins in Formula One from 2001-2006.

The new IndyCar chassis is said to considerably more difficult to drive than its predecessors and Allmendinger was only able to score a best road/street course finish of 19th at Barber Motorsports Park in April.

His IndyCar tenure was perhaps marred by a pair of first lap, first turn accidents in the June Detroit doubleheader. That was the final event on his planned IndyCar schedule for Penske and he has since announced his full-time Sprint Cup return next season for JTG-Daugherty Racing.

Allmendinger was a five-time winner in the Champ Car World Series before migrating over to NASCAR. Using his fellow open-wheeler as a barometer, it may take a few starts for Montoya to adjust -- not that he's especially concerned about it.

"One of the good things about it is that when I drove [IndyCars], they were sequential -- manually sequential gearboxes. Now they are paddle shift like the F1 [car] was," Montoya said.

"It is actually...I would say...easier than it used to be...I hadn't even thought about the push-to-pass yet. There are a lot of things I am going to learn and a lot of mistakes I am going to do with the push-to-pass; not using it or overusing it and stuff.

"We'll learn, and I think the more I look at videos and prepare myself for the race, the better I am going to be."

Montoya has won two races in his Sprint Cup Series career and made the Chase for the Championship in 2009. With an average finish of 13.8, this season has been one of his best in a stock car. He was courted by Furniture Row Racing before ultimately deciding to return to IndyCar next season.

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