Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Juan Pablo Montoya Grins at the Top of the Leader Board

Juan Pablo Montoya has this devilish little boy grin. Almost like the Cheshire Cat, pursed lips slowly spread into a smile and extend out, exposing those pearly whites. His eyes squint in delight, with the corners of his eyes wrinkling downward, and his cheeks dimple in ever so slightly, adding to that little boy type charm, but there's that gleam in his eyes, the twinkle of a daredevil ready to explode.

When I met him back in 2011, that's the thing that stuck out to me the most, that playful smile. When he gets amused, he can't help it; it's automatic, those lips spread across his face, turning upward. It's that look of excitement, that child-like playfulness, because when I saw that smile he was ready to embark on a different sort of speed venture; he was getting to ride the Millennium Force, a 310-foot tall roller coaster at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, that held world records for being the tallest and fastest.

Cedar Point is no stranger to the Guinness Book of World Records, as it continually has appeared in there for having the most roller coasters in one place in the world, as well as holding records for the tallest and fastest roller coasters, from wooden to incline, they are all designed for intense speed. Racing and roller coasters have that g-force in common, that rush that you can feel in the pit of your stomach. It harkens back to those instincts of fight or flight, but fighting is not an option once it leaves.

Stuck in the seat, buckled in, once it's moving at top speeds, just sit back and try to enjoy the ride. Feel your skin get plastered back on your face, cheeks flap in the wind, as you're pinned in your seat. Roll with the twists and turns, entrust that everything will go safely, and scream if you absolutely must.

Lucky winners got to ride with Juan Pablo Montoya on the Millennium Force, and some screams could be heard echoing off Lake Erie. The Goodyear Blimp was soaring overhead, and some people were lucky enough to get up close and personal with the Blimp when it was taking off or landing at the local airport there in Sandusky. Of course, you could test your skills at tire changing on a race car, too, as Cedar Point likes to indulge those that sense of adventure, immersing people in the race car fantasy.

Cedar Point is one of those theme parks that all others are judged by. Go to Disney, and even though they have the mouse that kids love, they don't have the same collection of g-force driven rides. Some Six Flags have some cool rides, don't get me wrong, but all-in-all, Cedar Point is the standard for rides.

It's not like they only have one good ride, as there are so many that have come and gone over the years. The Mantis was always a personal favorite, as you stood up while looping at high speeds, but the top for me was The Magnum. The Raptor is best on employee ride night when the safety brakes loosen.

Over the years, they have mastered engineering. Some rides, like the Millennium Force, are so smooth, you can hardly tell you're going as fast as you are, which is nearly 100 miles an hour. The turns are as smooth as when riding in a race car, and Juan Pablo Montoya was going to be able to compare the two.

That devilish grin appeared right before the coaster took off, and it was plastered on his face when the ride was over. Similarly, I saw that same smile on television when he won the Indianapolis 500. Pictures of that Cheshire Cat-like grin appeared across media outlets, as he is first at the halfway point.

That puts him at the top of the leader board for the Indy Car Series. Will Power is his teammate, both figuratively and literally. Team Penske consists of Montoya driving car No. 2 in first, as the Indy 500 was worth double points, and the reining series champion Will Power in second overall, driving car No. 1, even though they finished 10th and 18th in Detroit's Belle Isle Indy Car race this past weekend.

Penske may have been a dream for Montoya since he was a child racing go-karts in Bogota, Columbia, but that little kid fantasy came true when he won the Indy 500. He remains as the only driver to not only win the Indy 500 on his first attempt, but also a CART title and the 24 Hours At Daytona. Both NASCAR and Formula One have seen him zip across the finish line first, so he has multifaceted talent.

It will be interesting to see if he can hold onto his title as the season continues. One thing is for sure, this is one guy to keep an eye on as those cars zoom around the track, finishing out the rest of the season. Will someone take him out, or will he rein as a champion for the rest of the Indy Car Series?

For more information on Juan Pablo Montoya, visit www.jpmontoya.com, www.twitter.com/jpmontoya, and http://www.indycar.com/Series/IndyCar-Series/Juan-Pablo-Montoya. Marisa Williams earned her Master's in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University and is the author of more than 100 books. For more information, visit www.thorisazviews.com, www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz, and www.twitter.com/booksnbling.

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