Juan Montoya learned to celebrate racing victories in his father's lap. The young Colombian with the dazzling smile then became a winner on his own.
With a CART series title and an Indianapolis 500 victory, Montoya is one of the world's greatest drivers at just 24. His success at such a tender age might be a surprise to some people, but not to Pablo Montoya.
''He was fast almost from birth,'' the father said.
That speed is now evident even in defeat. As the younger Montoya went winless earlier this season, the big question was when -- not if -- he would return to form. He did so last month, taking the IRL's Indy 500 as a CART crossover.
Eight days later, he won the Miller Lite 225 at The Milwaukee Mile, his eighth CART victory in less than 1 1/2 seasons. On Sunday, in Detroit, Montoya goes for his third win in three races.
Some of the success could have been expected. His father was an architect who became a go-kart champion in his native country and once took his infant son for a spin on the track.
''I got a late start in racing because of my career,'' the elder Montoya said. ''But Juan is different.
''When he was 3 or 4 months old, I remember I won a race. My wife put Juan on my knees and I did a lap with the checkered flag and with him on my lap.''
That might have scared some babies, but not Juan.
''After that, if I won or not, I had to put him on my knees in the car or he would cry,'' the father said.
Soon, it became more than a ritual. At 3, Juan got to steer the car while his father worked the pedals.
''I would go very hard sometimes,'' the elder Montoya said. ''Sometimes we'd spin and he would like it very much.''
With such obvious interest, the next step was to get his son into a go-kart. So, he began his racing career at 5 by beating 8-year-olds.
''He didn't care how old the other boys were,'' the father said. ''He won his first race. He went out and beat everybody.''
Besides his incredible car control, Pablo credits his son's success to a swashbuckling attitude he had from the beginning.
''He was very aggressive, very angry,'' he said.
His son, who would rather talk about his new Ferrari sports car than his racing exploits, smiled at his father's words.
''I'm not angry at anybody,'' he said. ''But I am aggressive. You have to take advantage when somebody gives you the chance.''
Without his father's influence, Montoya says he probably wouldn't be a racer. And it didn't take Dad long to determine that his son should be just that.
Once he recognized the talent, Pablo decided to teach his son everything he had learned.
''I drove against some of the biggest in the world when they were learning in go-karts,'' the father said.
He raced Formula One great Ayrton Senna and current Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello, and Mike Wilson, when he was a world karting champion.
They were younger, but Pablo recalls being very competitive. Then he made the big decision -- racing against his son -- one that convinced him just how good Juan could be.
''The first time I had to really fight with Juan on the track, I realized he was really, really fast,'' Pablo said. ''At that moment, I was good. I had just finished second in the South American championships.''
Soon, he was finishing second to his son.
''I beat him for a while, then I didn't catch him anymore,'' Pablo said. ''I realized then that I'd have to stop and start developing him.''
It was more than a father-son thing, though. Pablo loves speed and saw a driver capable of carrying a great deal of it.
''There's no way you'd want to waste that kind of talent,'' he said.
After graduating from go-karts to more sophisticated cars, the younger Montoya focused on making it to Formula One. He was testing cars for the Williams team when Chip Ganassi snagged him for his CART operation.
Now, the European media is writing that Montoya will drive one of the Williams cars next year on the Grand Prix circuit. But Papa Montoya says that's not definite.
''Juan has never made a secret that he will go to Formula One sometime,'' the father said. ''I think we have proved everything here in CART, but we have a contract with Chip Ganassi for one year more and I don't know what people are talking about.''
March 26 -- Marlboro Grand Prix, Homestead, Fla. (Max Papis)
April 16 -- Toyota Grand Prix, Long Beach, Calif. (Paul Tracy)
April 30 -- Rio 200, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Adrian Fernandez)
May 13 -- Firestone Firehawk 500, Motegi, Japan. (Michael Andretti)
May 27 -- Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix, Nazareth, Pa. (Gil de Ferran)
June 5 -- Miller Lite 225, West Allis, Wis. (Juan Montoya)
June 18 -- Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix, Detroit. (Helio Castroneves)
June 25 -- Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200, Portland, Ore.
July 2 -- Marconi Grand Prix, Cleveland.
July 16 -- Molson Indy, Toronto.
July 23 -- Michigan 500, Brooklyn.
July 30 -- Target Grand Prix, Chicago.
Aug. 13 -- Miller Lite 200, Lexington, Ohio.
Aug. 20 -- Texaco Havoline 200, Elkhart Lake, Wis.
Sept. 3 -- Molson Indy, Vancouver, British Columbia.
Sept. 10 -- Honda Grand Prix, Monterey, Calif.
Sept. 17 -- Motorola 300, Madison, Ill.
Oct. 1 -- Texaco-Havoline Grand Prix, Houston.
Oct. 15 -- Honda Indy 300, Surfers Paradise, Australia.
Oct. 29 -- Marlboro 500, Fontana, Calif.
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