Another silly season domino fell when we learned earlier this week that Juan Pablo Montoya will not be returning to the ‘42’ car next year at Earnhardt- Ganassi Racing. He had to see it coming; two road course victories and one appearance in the Chase won’t cut it when you have free agents like Ryan Newman you can pursue…among others.
I’ve been on both sides of what happened with Montoya. Advertising sales can itself be a cruel business. I’ve had talent walk through my door that were talented people, but an extended season of mediocre performance suggested it was time to get somebody else in there to see if they couldn’t do better. I think the most telling thing for me is when Juan Pablo appeared to have a victory in hand, but just couldn’t hold his challenger off. It just seems like Montoya just never had what it took to win on an oval.
I found myself thinking about the “open wheel invasion” of a few years ago. Franchitti, Villeneuve, Carpentier….gone. After a brilliant IRL career, Sam Hornish Jr. has been toiling in the Nationwide Series, where this season, he’s actually racing with some degree of success after experiencing difficulties in a Cup car for Roger Penske. Now one can’t help but wonder what happens next for Montoya.
The former Indianapolis 500 winner seems to have his back against the wall. For all his time in NASCAR, Montoya has scrapped with his share of drivers- including teammates. It’s one thing to carry baggage with you if you’re a winner (think Kurt Busch.) It’s a whole different ball game when there’s not a ton of accomplishments on your resume, in a career of 239 starts. It doesn’t look pretty.
Perhaps Montoya will return to Formula One or Indy car. In the grand scheme of things, he has options, just not in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Sadly for Montoya and his fans, it looks like the jig is up in the stock car ranks.