CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Juan Pablo Montoya is leaving NASCAR for a return to IndyCar, where he’ll drive for Chip Ganassi rival Roger Penske.
The Colombian has agreed to join Team Penske next season as a teammate to current IndyCar points leader Helio Castroneves and Will Power. He could also drive in some NASCAR races as part of the deal.
The move could be seen as a betrayal by Montoya against longtime team owner Ganassi.
Ganassi decided in August he was not bringing Montoya back to his NASCAR program next season. But he and Penske are fierce rivals in IndyCar, and Ganassi driver Scott Dixon is currently locked in the championship battle with Castroneves.
Montoya won the 1999 CART title, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 and 11 races driving open-wheel for Ganassi. He then moved to Formula One, where he had seven wins and 30 podiums, before reuniting with Ganassi again in 2006 to compete in NASCAR.
Montoya had said he’d consider all opportunities once he learned he was not going to return to Ganassi’s Sprint Cup Series car, and he spoke with Michael Andretti about an IndyCar ride. Andretti looked for the sponsorship needed to sign Montoya, but Montoya informed Andretti last week he was no longer interested in a partnership.
Montoya also had an offer in NASCAR to replace Kurt Busch at Furniture Row Racing next season. He visited that team’s shop in Colorado, but his first choice was to sign with an organization that could give him cars capable of winning every race.
He lacked that in NASCAR with Ganassi, which has had roller-coaster performance as an organization but is consistently among the best in IndyCar. Ganassi’s top rival? Penske, winner of 15 Indianapolis 500s.