FAMILY MATTERS: Juan-Pablo Montoya (Penske Chevrolet) celebrates with his family in Victory Lane after winning the 99th Indianapolis 500. AFP / Jonathan Ferrey
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana - A nomadic motor racing career came full circle when Juan Pablo Montoya returned to Victory Lane at The Brickyard on Sunday (May 24), 15 well-travelled years after the Colombian won his first Indianapolis 500.
Much has changed since a brash 24-year-old arrived at the sprawling oval in 2000 and won the Indy 500 in his debut race.
READ: Montoya bags second Indy 500 win
"For me, I think '99, 2000 was the start of my career," said the graying racer who shared Sunday's victory with his wife Connie and three children.
LED FOR ONLY NINE LAPS
He continued: "I was really young. It was just the start of it. We came here, had a really good car, we dominated. This one, when you have to work for it that hard, it's exciting."
The 15 years between victories and the contrasting way they unfolded revealed Montoya's evolution as a driver.
He dominated in his 2000 win, leading 167 laps. On Sunday, he led just nine, the third fewest by a winner.
"It's just experience," shrugged Montoya. "You're older, you're wiser, you understand where the races are won, where they're lost."
SEVEN F1 WINS
Aggressive on the track, prickly off it, Montoya has put his cars in the winner's circles wherever he has gone from Formula 1 and the Monaco Grand Prix to Nascar and Sonoma.
He arrived on the North American racing scene in 1999 in spectacular fashion, winning seven races to become the youngest Cart champion.
The next year he won three times while jumping to the rival Indy Racing League (now IndyCar) for a shot at the Indy 500 and took America's biggest race.
Having caught the eye of Formula 1, Montoya would spend six seasons on the glamour circuit with Williams and McLaren, collecting seven wins and 30 podiums.
OVER THE MOON TO RACE FOR PENSKE
After wearing out his F1 welcome his career took a dramatic turn when he moved to Nascar where he was twice a winner on the stock-car circuit. Needing to feed his hunger for wins, Montoya returned to IndyCar in 2014 after being offered a chance to join the sport's most successful team.
Ready to celebrate his 40th birthday in September 2015 and nearing the end of the racing road, Montoya hopes Penske will prove to be a team where he can put down permanent roots.
"I told Roger (Penske) ‘as long as you want me, I'll be here’," Montoya said. "He has a passion for winning and being the best out of everything he does.
"For me, I've been over the moon here."