Montoya Mania Grips South Florida
The exclusive "Montoya Mania" package will benefit Formula Smiles which is Juan Pablo and Connie Montoya's foundation (photo courtesy: Homestead-Miami Speedway)
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In just his third full-time year in NASCAR, Juan Pablo Montoya currently sits sixth in the Sprint Cup Championship points standings, with just one race to go before the 2009 season culminates on his “home town” track of Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 22)
Earlier this fall, South Florida media members visited with Juan Pablo, joining NASCAR’s hottest driver for breakfast and media availability at one of the Miami resident’s favorite local Colombian restaurants. At the time, Juan Pablo Montoya ranked third in the Sprint Cup Championship points standings, but the 2009 title—to be crowned Nov. 22 on Montoya’s “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway—is not this fall’s only focus for Montoya and wife Connie.
Away from the track, Montoya attacks problems facing his native land of Colombia with the same ferocity and passion he employs while driving a race car. Social conflict has gripped his native country for many years, which has led to poverty and violence.
But alongside wife Connie, the Montoyas are committed to fighting the hardship through sports and education. Their weapon? “Formula Smiles,” an organization that aims to improve through sports and recreation the quality of life for Colombian children in vulnerable situations.
“We started this five years ago as our way to give back to Colombia,” said Connie. “Formula Smiles provides children with a place to practice, enjoy after-school activities and learn core values.”
These core values include respect, dedication and teamwork, all of which help to combat drug use and violence among children displaced by the unrest.
“We created Formula Smiles so that we could create sports facilities, hire the people to run it and then buy then all the equipment that kids will need to have some fun,” said Juan Pablo.
Through their Formula Smiles Foundation, the Montoyas utilize sports to improve the quality of life for children afflicted by poverty in their native Colombia. And with a very special announcement made by Homestead-Miami Speedway President Curtis Gray, race fans who attend NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22 will aid in the very same fight.
Joined live by the Montoyas in Doral, Gray announced the creation of an exclusive opportunity for fans of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet: the “Montoya Mania” package includes a race ticket and private meet-and-greet with Montoya during NASCAR’s series-crowning Championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as well as a $42 donation that goes directly to Formula Smiles. In addition, fans who purchase the “Montoya Mania” package will receive a Juan Pablo Montoya souvenir and a Nov. 22 Pre-Race Track Pass at Homestead-Miami Speedway—providing fans access to the front-stretch of the track to take pictures, sign the start/finish line and enjoy autograph and Q&A sessions with NASCAR personalities. To purchase, please visit www.HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com/FormulaSmiles or call (305) 230-5024.
The media opportunity took place at Mondongo’s Restaurant in Doral and provided a relaxed environment for the Montoyas to discuss their Formula Smiles Foundation during a rare break from the on-track action, where Montoya is the only driver to have recorded a Top 5 finish in each of the four Chase “playoff” races.
“I think it’s great to get involved with Homestead-Miami Speedway, my home track, and do something for the community,” said Montoya. “If I can get to Homestead-Miami fighting for the Championship, you want to focus on the race, but the other side [is] you have to think of the benefit you can make to help kids.”
“Colombia has suffered a great deal of social conflict in the last 50 years, so we are trying to get that community together,” said Connie. “Formula Smiles provides children with a place to practice sports, enjoy after-school activities and learn core values. Formula Smiles creates smiles so children can smile.”
“The Montoyas are a shining example for South Floridians, both on and off the track,” said Gray. “What Juan Pablo has accomplished behind the wheel in just his third year of racing stock cars is truly remarkable. To then work as diligently off the track at improving the lives of kids in vulnerable situations reveals a human spirit that we all would be well served to emulate.”
Montoya has already has made history this season in becoming the first non-American born driver ever to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the 10-race playoff system that culminates with theNov. 22 Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Just one race remains before the Sprint Cup Championship is decided in Miami, and the top five Chase drivers—Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Montoya, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon—remain unchanged.
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