Juan Pablo Montoya Lost to a Jet Dryer in the Daytona 500 a Decade Ago

No one would ever suggest that Juan Pablo Montoya is a bad race car driver. He’s just one of three drivers to have won in IndyCar, Formula One, and the NASCAR Cup Series

However, 10 years ago at the 2012 Daytona 500, some understandably questioned the Colombian driver when he was at the center of one of the most bizarre incidents in racing history. Here’s a look back at the famous incident between JPM and a jet dryer.

Juan Pablo Montoya races to successful career across multiple racing styles

Throughout his career, Juan Pablo Montoya has impressed early and often. In 1999 with the CART Series, the rookie driver won seven times and captured the season title.

A year later, while racing full-time with CART, he raced a single time with the IndyCar Series at the Indianapolis 500. He won. 

The following year, Montoya transitioned to full-time racing with Formula One. Continuing the trend, he won a race that year and finished sixth in the standings. He remained with the series for the next four years, winning five more times, with his best seasons in 2002 and 2003 when he finished third both times. 

In 2007, he returned to the States and embarked on a full-time NASCAR Cup Series career, which unsurprisingly, he won his first race that season at Sonoma.  

Juan Pablo Montoya hits jet dryer that bursts into flames

While Montoya would win another time in his Cup Series career at Watkins Glen in 2010, most fans remember his time in NASCAR for what happened in the 2012 season-opening race at Daytona. 

After qualifying 35th for the Great American Race, Montoya waited with the rest of the field to race on Monday because rains prevented the race from taking place on its traditional Sunday. Late in the race on lap 160, under caution, the red No. 42 car made its way around the track to catch up to the rest of the field. 

Then, disaster struck.

Montoya’s car suffered a rear suspension failure and shot up the track at the worst possible time, hitting the track support vehicle towing a jet dryer. The fuel ignited into a wall of flames and resulted in a two-hour red flag delay. Montoya and the shaken support vehicle driver were examined and medically cleared after the accident.

Where is the car today?

After the accident, Montoya raced one more full-time Cup season before returning to IndyCar. He won a second Indianapolis 500 in 2015 and raced in the event in 2021, and finished ninth. 

Interestingly, the “jet dryer” car is now in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s possession at his famous race car graveyard. Chris Heroy, who was Montoya’s crew chief during the 2012 Daytona 500, was a former engineer on Earnhardt’s Hendrick Motorsports team. He offered the car to Junior when it got back to North Carolina.

According to Earnhardt’s website, the jet dryer car is understandably one of the most infamous vehicles on the property from one of the most bizarre events in Daytona 500 history.

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