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Montoya back in an indy car for first time in 13 years

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The Canadian Press
11/25/2013 2:00:06 PM
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Juan Pablo Montoya turned his first laps in an Indy car in 13 years Monday during his first test with new team Penske Racing.

The Penske test at Sebring International Raceway was Montoya's first opportunity to get in his new car. He last drove in IndyCar in 2000, the year he won the Indianapolis 500 driving for Chip Ganassi.

Montoya spent seven seasons in NASCAR driving for Ganassi, but signed with rival Roger Penske in September to return to IndyCar when Ganassi decided not to bring the Colombian back for the 2014 season.

"I still don't believe it that I'm here, to be honest with you," Montoya said. "I look at the car and everything, my name on the car. It's really exciting. It's nice because there's been excitement of everybody that I'm coming back to open wheel."

New Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves both attended Monday's test, and Power prepared the car before turning the No. 2 over to Montoya. Also on hand was Penske adviser and four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears.

"It's exciting that they're here and willing to help. That's what Team Penske is all about," Montoya said. "Really, everybody works together and is trying to get me up to speed as fast as I can. The faster I get up to speed, the better it is for everybody."

Montoya had modest goals for Monday: He wanted to get comfortable in the car and figure out what has changed since 2000, when he won the Indianapolis 500 driving for Ganassi.

"I'm not going out there to try and break the track record on the first lap," he said. "I'm going to build up to it and keep working on the car and get the car to do what I want. You learn that as you go through the years. When you are young, you drive the car anywhere it is. Then you realize you can make it drive for you, you can achieve the same things with half the effort."

Montoya won seven races in CART and the Indy 500 in his two seasons competing in open wheel with Ganassi. Their run together also included the 1999 CART championship. He then moved to Formula One, where he spent six seasons before abruptly quitting to return to the United States to compete in NASCAR. He reunited with Ganassi, but the results never came.

Montoya won one Nationwide race in 2007, and had two Sprint Cup victories in 253 career starts. His last win in NASCAR was in 2010, a year after he made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship and finished a career-best eighth in the standings.

At a fan event prior to his final NASCAR race earlier this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Montoya was blunt about his hopes for his move to IndyCar -- "I'm tired of sucking," he said.

He'll have an opportunity to be competitive with Penske, a consistent contender in IndyCar for both the series championship and the Indy 500.

Juan Pablo Montoya  (Photo: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
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