By Jenna Fryer
INDIANAPOLIS: Juan Pablo Montoya keeps a detailed log of all his rides. Not in the stock car, but on his mountain bike.
All of them, every daily 2-hour trek in sunny Miami where the stocky Colombian tries to pedal himself into shape. He’s never too far from his favorite two-wheeled ride — at the track, like Talladega and Charlotte, or any locale when he can find some open space and just go.
JPM, NASCAR driver, has morphed into JPM, fitness freak. His quest has even taken him to a pilates studio, where wife Connie convinced him to try a handful of classes.
About the only part of his workout routine he won’t detail is exactly how much weight he’s dropped. But it’s clear by looking at his frame that he’s in the best shape of his stock car career. Yes, he was tired of the flab, but not just because he was overweight, but because of what it represented. He’s doing it all with one goal in mind.
“I want to [expletive] succeed in this,” he said. “I’m tired of sucking.”
Montoya just might turn it around in Indianapolis, because he was back on top of the Brickyard on Friday, just like he was when he won the 2000 Indianapolis 500. Montoya paced Friday’s session with a 185.410 mph lap that he turned on his 22nd and final circuit on the 2.5-mile oval . .
Yes, it was only the top time in practice, but it’s a sign that Montoya will be a contender again at Indy. He needs to be, for the sake of his sanity and perhaps his job. He is in the final year of his contract with Chip Ganassi Racing, where he’s won two races in the eight years since he abruptly left Formula One for NASCAR.
His only wins were on road courses, and he’s not been to Victory Lane since 2010. Montoya heads into Sunday’s race at Indy ranked 23rd in the Sprint Cup standings with three top-10 finishes on the year.
Ganassi won’t be pinned down on Montoya’s future as driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet.
“We’re all trying to get results here. We’re just working on results,” he said. “Juan has a deep history with our team, and we want to give him every opportunity to do well.”
The opportunities have been few for Montoya, who won the Indy 500 and the 1999 CART title driving for Ganassi but hasn’t found the same success since reuniting with the car owner in NASCAR.
There’s been marked improvement this year, and Montoya contended for wins at both Richmond and Dover. He had the race at Richmond in the bag until a late caution snatched his first NASCAR win on an oval out from under him. He was the leader late at Dover until Tony Stewart passed him.