Zak Brown says that Juan Pablo Montoya was always Arrow McLaren SP's top choice to drive for the team in this year's Indianapolis 500 in May.
Montoya is a two-time winner of the event. He was victorious as a rookie in 2000 before moving on to compete in Formula 1 with Williams and McLaren, and then NASCAR with Chip Ganassi Racing. He won the Indy 500 for a second time on his return to the open-wheel championship in 2015.
Last month, Brown confirmed that Montoya will drive for McLaren in this year's race in a third car alongside full time IndyCar drivers Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist.
"We’ve got two younger, less experienced drivers," explained the McLaren CEO. "We wanted someone experienced with a big name that could win the race that had McLaren history and there was only one of those guys, so it was very clear."
Up to now Montoya had been under contract with Penske to compete in the IMSA championship, but the 45-year-old Colombian is now a free agent for 2021.
"It was our second attempt at getting him to compete with us at the Indy 500. Since he was out of contract, we were able to secure his services this time," Brown said.
“I tried to get Juan Pablo to race for us in 2018, but he was under contract and he wasn’t allowed to race.
“We’ve always been a Juan Pablo Montoya fan,” he told Motorsportweek.com. “I think everybody is. He’s probably one of the most naturally talented drivers we’ve ever seen.
“He drove for me at United Autosports in Le Mans a couple of years ago, so I got a chance to work with him there.
"He obviously has a great history with McLaren, and he has a tremendous amount of success at the Indianapolis 500 in the handful of races he’s done, having won it twice."
Montoya has promised to use all his experience to make a real bid for victory in the race.
"I have a lot of knowledge," he told the IndyCar.com website. “I talked to [team co-owner] Sam Schmidt and told him whoever is going to be in charge of my car for those two weeks, I’m going to make his life very miserable.
“I’m going to ask a lot out of him and a lot of what I want out of the car," Montoya continued. “We’re just getting started, I’m excited. I want to get the seat done and a lot of things out of the way to make life easier.
"It should be pretty good. I’m pretty excited about it!"
McLaren secured a sixth place finish with O'Ward in last year's race, which was delayed until August because of the coronavirus pandemic. His team mate Oliver Askew briefly led the race before crashing on lap 91 while trying to avoid another spinning car.