CONCORD, NC (March 19, 2010) – MTV Latin America and the Inter-American development Bank have recognized Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates’ acclaimed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, for his charitable work with the Formula Smiles Foundation. Montoya was presented with a “Chiuku” award by MTV News correspondent Ilana Sod in Miami, Florida. The special award presentation will premiere on MTV Latin America’s screens today in one-minute spots with several encore presentations over the next two weeks.
As part of the on-going “MTV Agents of Change,” initiative MTV created the “Chiuku” to recognize those “Agents of Change” who are committed to the betterment of their communities and use their influence to become a catalyst for effecting change and spreading their message all over the world. Past recipients include: Wyclef Jean, Kudai, Ashley Tisdale, Cobra Starship, DJ David Guetta, Fall Out Boy, Kelly Rowland, Paulina Rubio, Wisin & Yandel, 50 Cent, Calle 13, Backstreet Boys, Kelly Osbourne, Morrissey and Snoop Dogg, amongst others.
“I was very honored and surprised when MTV Latin America reached out to me about this award,” Montoya remarked. “Connie and I started this Foundation years ago with the hope of changing a few lives and to see it grow into what it is today is just amazing.”
“Chiuku” is a fictional creature, originally from the Amazon, with a “special power” conjured by the mystical Chiukotek tribe. This power gives Chiuku the ability to speak the universal language of music and communicate with humans to invite them to become “Agents of Change”. Chiuku seeks to reach the most important and influential people, who in turn, will spread his message all over the world.
The Formula Smiles Foundation – founded by Montoya and his wife Connie to benefit Colombian children in need – has become one of the NASCAR’s most active charities. Following the model of “Education + Sports = The Best Formula,” Formula Smiles integrates sports, physical education, recreation and academics. With projects in such vulnerable regions of Colombia as San Andres, Cartagena, Ibague and Villavicencio, Formula Smiles seeks to strengthen values such as honesty, tolerance, respect, solidarity, responsibility and humility, thus encouraging children to stay on a positive path, and away from drugs and violence.
Montoya, who last season became the first International and Latino driver to ever make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, also has one of the series’ most diverse racing backgrounds. Montoya’s career began at the age of five when he started racing go-karts with his dad in Bogota, Colombia. Over the course of the next three decades, Montoya has become one of the most recognizable drivers in the world. He has an Indianapolis 500 win in IndyCar racing, two Rolex 24 At Daytona wins in sports car racing, a CART Championship, a win in the Grand Prix of Monaco in Formula One and overall 18 open-wheel victories and two wins in NASCAR.