Sporting News 60 Most Beautiful People: ?55, Juan Pablo Montoya

In 60 years of NASCAR racing, the sport has been filled with colorful characters. This year, Sporting News decided to craft a list of the sport’s 60 Most Beautiful People.

The selections were made as a result of nominations sent in by readers and NASCAR fans to the Sporting News’ publications and Web sites.

The list was finalized and published in a special edition, which is now available on newsstands and at the online store at SceneDaily is running the list, with one person from the top 60 to be featured each day.

Today’s installment features No. 55, Juan Pablo Montoya.

Juan Pablo Montoya’s first real taste of NASCAR came in 2003 when he and Jeff Gordon decided to swap cars in a speed-demonstration event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The experience convinced the winner of the 2000 Indianapolis 500 to leave all forms of open-wheel racing, including Formula One, so he could try his hand at stock cars.

The move was neither easy nor free of controversy for the Colombian driver. Not only was the learning curve steeper than expected, there were more than a few races in which Montoya found himself accused of rough driving. Add in the cultural differences, and it could have been a disaster. But Montoya’s friendly personality and his talent as a driver were best displayed when he won the 2007 Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway outside San Francisco in just his 16th start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The win made Montoya one of only three drivers to win races in NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One, joining racing legends Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney.

But it wasn’t just his success on the track that landed Montoya on our 60 Most Beautiful list. He has helped usher in a new era for NASCAR — one that gives critics fewer reasons to say the country’s fastest-growing sport is reserved strictly for Southern boys. His on- and off-track dedication to NASCAR and the community paired with his South American charm helped Montoya claim a spot on this list.

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