Racings "Trading Spaces"

In one of the most highly anticipated and unique events in the history of the 94-year-old Indianapolis Motor Speedway, legendary drivers Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya swapped race cars June 11 on the 2.606 IMS road course.

Gordon, a three-time Brickyard 400 winner and four-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion, drove Montoya’s HP Williams-BMW FW24 Formula One car, while Montoya, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2003 Monaco Grand Prix winner, drove Gordon’s No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo NASCAR Winston Cup car.

“I’m already a fan of Formula One and would love to be able to come here and watch and experience the race,” Gordon said. “With F1, I've had all my friends say, ‘You’ve got to go down into (road course) Turn 1 and watch,’ and now I can say I've done it.

“It’s just one of the coolest things I've ever experienced. Certainly, the greatest as far as being able to experience a car that can do all those things. To be in a car that can do that, I can't describe it.”

Montoya, like Gordon, enjoyed his time driving a different car.

“I came and I didn't know what to expect from the car,” Montoya said. “Something that I was very clear is that I was going to go out there, you know, drive a car I've never driven and just have some fun. And I think today was go out, push a car you've never driven in your life, nothing close to it and just push it around as hard as you can. As drivers, we are always going to go out and push as hard as we can. We're not going to go out there and just cruise. We want some action.”

Neither driver was completely flawless in their maiden voyage in the respective cars. Montoya, the 1999 CART champion, overshot Turn 1 and Gordon got into the grass in Turn 8 after exiting the backstretch. There was no damage to either car, and both drivers continued without problems.

Montoya drove six full laps at speed, while Gordon drove seven full laps.

Unofficial times for each driver had Montoya turning a fast lap of 1 minute, 39.9 seconds in the No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo and Gordon turning a fast lap of 1 minute, 16.5 seconds in the HP Williams-BMW FW24. Montoya qualified fourth last year for the United States Grand Prix in the FW 24 at 1:11.414.

So Gordon’s time was quite respectable for his first time behind the wheel of an F1 car.

“The corners come up so fast because you’re able to drive in so deep in the corner because it brakes so well, and it stops so well and turns so well,” Gordon said. “You think, ‘Wow, I made it into that corner, what do I do now?’ and you go to pick up the throttle, and you think that it has so much power it's going to break the tires loose, but with the traction control, it just grabs and goes.

“I can't imagine what it would be like with 16 guys out there. Oh, my God.”

While the test was historic, so were the cars involved. The No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo carried Gordon to victory six wins and was last used at Watkins Glen in 2001 when Gordon won his record seventh road-course event.

The HP Williams-BMW FW24 carried Montoya’s teammate, Ralf Schumacher, to victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2002 and also won the pole at Monza with the fastest lap in Formula One history. Montoya averaged 161.448 mph (259.827 km/h) for a time of 1 minute, 20.264 seconds around the 11-turn, 3.6-mile (5.793-km) Monza circuit.

The engine on the car revved to an F1-record 19,050 RPM in 2002. Montoya will return to Indianapolis for the United States Grand Prix on Sept. 28, the second-to-last race of the Formula One season.

“It's got to be great experience,” Gordon said of the United States Grand Prix. “The cars, the pitch of the engines, the traction control, the launch, everything they have, and that long straightaway ... the straightaway has got to be a great experience for the fans, to see the speeds, to see the cars be able to draft and then just stop and turn. I know for me it would be awesome.”

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2003, Jeff Gordon

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