Chip Ganassi wont have Juan Pablo Montoya back for an eighth NASCAR season
Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013
Juan Pablo Montoya, one of the most decorated drivers in the world with an Indianapolis 500 victory and wins in Formula One, NASCAR and the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, will not have a chance to find success in NASCAR with longtime team owner Chip Ganassi.
The team owner informed Montoya he will not bring the Colombian back for an eighth NASCAR season. Ganassi President Steve Lauletta announced the decision to the team Tuesday, several people present for the announcement told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Ganassi does not comment on driver contracts.
Montoya has been with Ganassi since 2006, when he abruptly left Formula One where he had seven wins and 30 podiums for NASCAR. Its his second stint with the car owner the two teamed together to win the 1999 CART championship and 2000 Indianapolis 500 before Montoya moved to F1.
But results in NASCAR have been sporadic. Montoya has just two wins in 239 career starts, and his best season finish was eighth in 2009.
The poor showings led Montoya to rededicate himself this season and turn up his fitness in an effort to see if hes been the problem with the No. 42 Chevrolet.
I want to (expletive) succeed in this. Im tired of sucking, he said before the Brickyard 400.
Theres no clear answer what has been the problem with Montoya, the No. 42 team or the Ganassi organization.
The program has been through several rebuilds since Montoya came aboard, and it was a middle-of-the-road organization when he signed on in 2006. It was Ganassi that was the draw for Montoya: The two had won 11 races together in 1999 and 2000 in CART.
Their first NASCAR season was decent and gave the organization a boost, with a win on the road course at Sonoma, six top-10s and Rookie of the Year in 2007.
But 2008 was the first sign of trouble, as Montoya had two crew-chief changes in the first 16 races.
Montoya made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in 2009 with crew chief Brian Pattie behind a career-best 18 top-10s, and he was third in points with six races to go in the season before fading to eighth in the final standings.
He won on the road course at Watkins Glen in 2010, but Pattie was let go before Indianapolis in 2011 for Montoyas fourth crew-chief change. The Ganassi team began another overhaul that winter, and Chris Heroy was hired as Montoyas fifth crew chief before 2012. That entire season was spent trying to get the Ganassi cars up to speed.
The pressure has been on Montoya all this year, as hes been obviously racing for his job with hotshot Ganassi developmental driver Kyle Larson waiting in the wings. Larson turned 21 just last month and has a whopping 21 Nationwide Series starts under his belt.
While todays NASCAR stars rave that Larson is the real deal, many believe its far too soon to push him into the Sprint Cup Series, and Ganassi himself has said repeatedly that talk about his future is just speculation. Larson has 12 top-10 finishes in Nationwide and is eighth in the standings.
Others options for the No. 42 Chevrolet could be Kurt Busch, who drives for single-car team Furniture Row Racing, or possibly Ryan Newman, who has been let go from Stewart-Haas Racing.
Its not clear where Montoya goes next, either. Hes got an impressive resume on the world level thats not appreciated in the confines of the NASCAR garage, and there arent many open seats available at least not any good ones in the Sprint Cup Series.
It could force Montoya to look at sports car racing, a return to open wheel or maybe even a European series if he chooses to continue racing.