That jug of milk in your refrigerator suggests otherwise, but Juan Pablo Montoya showed Sunday that milk at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has no expiration date.
It’s been 15 years since Montoya took the traditional chug of milk at the Indianapolis 500. He did it again Sunday and it was as cool and refreshing as it was back in 2000, when he won the race as an Indy 500 rookie.
The stretch between wins was the longest in race history, surpassing the 10 years it took A.J. Foyt to earn his record fourth victory (1967 and 1977). And it came at the expense of Team Penske teammate Will Power.
In a race that had 37 lead changes — including three in the final 10 laps — Montoya grabbed the final one. He roared past Power on the outside as they raced down the front stretch on lap 197. He held on to win by 0.1046 seconds, the fourth closest margin of victory, denying Power a May sweep. Power won the Angie’s List Grand Prix at IMS on May 9.
“I was trying to keep the lead because I knew with the heat, the tires were degrading and eventually they wouldn’t be able to get runs,” Power said. “Montoya got a last run and maybe I was a little nice to him into Turn 1 and lifted. … I got really close to him after Turn 2 but washed out and had to lift. That was the race.”
Montoya, Power and pole-sitter Scott Dixon traded the lead six times during the final 25 laps. The majority of spectators around the 2.5-mile oval stood to watch the final 16 laps that turned into a shootout following the sixth caution that lasted a lengthy nine laps.
“I know Will is probably disappointed right now he finished second,” Montoya said, “but in a couple months he’s going to look back and say, ‘Man, that was fun. That was a hell of a race.’”
Dixon, who scored his lone Indy 500 victory from the pole in 2008, led a race-high 84 laps. His last lead came on lap 187. He fell out of contention on the closing laps and finished fourth behind Charlie Kimball.
Montoya led nine laps — a far cry from his 167 laps led in his 2000 victory — but he led the most imporant one. At one point Montoya dropped from his starting position of 15th to 30th in the 33-car field. He also survived an early-race scare after Simona de Silvestro ran into the back of him coming off a caution, causing slight damage to the back of his car.
“That’s what happens when you qualify bad,” Montoya said. “You find yourself with the wrong crowd.”
The same might be said of Montoya’s racing career in NASCAR. After racing Formula One (2001-2006), he ran seven full seasons with the Sprint Cup Series (2007-2013) and won two road course races before returning to Indy Car.
“To be honest, I want to thank (Penske president Tim Cindric) and Roger, they gave me this opportunity,” Montoya said. “I’m glad I’m proving them right, that they made the right choice. I’m loving racing right now, so it’s great.”