Are Montoya’s NASCAR Days Numbered?

by Jim on August 14, 2013 · 18 comments

42 and 48 restartAnother 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.

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1 Vicki August 15, 2013 at 4:13 am

I never especially liked Montoya but he’s sort of grown on me in the last couple of years. Being the bleeding heart I am, I feel sorry for him now although I agree that he just never quite mastered NASCAR and it appears to be the open wheel driver who can. That probably doesn’t bode especially well for Danica.

2 Jim August 15, 2013 at 5:23 am

@Vicki. I think you’ve summed up a number of my feelings well. His attitude grates on me sometimes, but I think he’s be another guy, if we saw him away from the track, we’d find a much more congenial guy. It seems like this move is just another one of those “we’re not getting anywhere the way we are now, it’s time to shake things up” sort of deals. EGR has some nice options to pick from in terms of potential new drivers, be they veterans or rookies.

3 Vicki August 15, 2013 at 5:41 am

I love Kyle Larson. I think he may be my follow-up driver whenever Jimmie retires! He’s such an exciting kid to watch. I sort of hope they don’t put him in the 42 yet though. I’d hate to see happen to him what happened to Joey Logano when they jumped him up to Cup too soon.

4 Jim August 15, 2013 at 7:06 am

@Vicki- Agreed. IMHO, Kyle could stand about another year or two of seasoning.

5 Rockin 78 August 15, 2013 at 9:44 am

Juan has been leaving for the last couple of years, they just never regressed him. I just don’t think he ever fit in. Chip is to loyal sometimes, however, it’s just time to move on with someone else!

6 Jim August 15, 2013 at 10:34 am

@Rockin 78. He always did seem out of place. No one can say he didn’t get a legitimate shot.

7 Rockin 78 August 15, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Your right, He has always been in good enough equipment to win since Jamie Mac managed to get some wins. Juan seems to be a loner in the garage. Not saying he needs to be a “good old boy,” just needs to lose the temper and his unwillingness to let faster cars pass.

8 Jim August 15, 2013 at 2:42 pm

@Rockin 78- Was it just me, or did JPM come across as being “too cool for school?”

9 Rich Norton August 15, 2013 at 4:44 pm

EGR as a team has been struggling. I am not sure that it is all Montoya. Don’t get me wrong Montoya is no Jimmy Johnson, however he is a capable racer. RCR seems to be able to win races with EGR engines, but EGR couldn’t. The switch to Hendrick engines doesn’t seem to have helped. Ganasi’s NASCAR program has been lacking since Sterlin Marlin was injured and McMurray filled in for him. That was the last season that Ganasi was competitive.

10 Rich Norton August 15, 2013 at 4:45 pm

EGR as a team has been struggling. I am not sure that it is all Montoya. Don’t get me wrong Montoya is no Jimmy Johnson, however he is a capable racer. RCR seems to be able to win races with ECR engines, but EGR couldn’t. The switch to Hendrick engines doesn’t seem to have helped. Ganasi’s NASCAR program has been lacking since Sterlin Marlin was injured and McMurray filled in for him. That was the last season that Ganasi was competitive.

11 Jim August 15, 2013 at 7:48 pm

@Rich- You’re right. JPM’s decent yet middling career isn’t all on him. No question EGR is not in the same class as HMS, JGR or even Penske or Roush. By the same token, Jamie McMurray- who may actually not be as good as Montoya- delivered more in the way of wins (albeit in one season) than Montoya has in more than twice the amount of time. Probably, if there were some flicker of potential, he could get another chance; however, I don’t think JPM is any better now than he was in 2007. This doesn’t even take into consideration he’s got a lot of negative history with a lot of drivers. I don;t want to sound mean- but I think he’s too much of a diva for a low budget team, and I sure can’t see him blending in well on one of the “super teams.” I think it’s F1 or Indy time for Montoya- and I bet he returns to either one of those series a better racer.

12 Richard Petersen August 15, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I liked it better when Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing were separate teams. Dale Earnhardt Inc. was winning races even though they were having that dry spill 2005-2007. If it wasn’t for all of them engine failures and poor results, they would have had chase contending hopes, not too sure about championship though. And then there was Chip Ganassi Racing, not really winning much to end with. Only reason Chip Ganassi Racing merged with D.E.I. was because Ganassi couldn’t do it on his own. If the two teams wouldn’t have merged, Ganassi would have been long gone and racing in Indy series. Ganassi’s poor running is pretty much what is showing at the team, not so much the D.E.I. part of the team, hints that is why the No.1 is doing a lot better than Ganassi’s No.42. Don’t get me wrong either, Juan Pablo Montoya is a hell of a driver, especially in Indy cars, but he just couldn’t quite get the hang of it like Tony Stewart did. If Ganassi wants to win ,maybe they should call in Dale Earnhardt Jr., giving he isn’t doing well at Hendrick anyways, maybe he can get back to his old D.E.I. winning ways and put the “Earnhardt” back in Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing.

13 Rich Norton August 15, 2013 at 9:28 pm

@Jim, I hear you. Back to Indycar, I’m not sure about F1, I think that he is past his prime. He isn’t the driver that Kurt Busch is. Busch has been able to make something from a 2nd rate team, no wins but he has been able to hang around the top 10. With a little better luck, or a couple of breaks going for him instead of against him Busch could have had a couple of wins this season. Montoya won’t be moving up to better equipment in Sprint Cup. I don’t see his ego allowing himself to step down to Nationwide. His only hope would be to lateral to Petty or some other 2nd level team.

I also believe that who ever ends up in the 42 will have problems going forward. EGR just has not kept up with the curve. They are running Hendrick engines, but it seems like they are on 7 cylinders, they just never seem to have the speed that the other teams with Hendrick engines. I don’t think its the engines.

14 Rich Norton August 15, 2013 at 9:32 pm

@ Richard Peterson, you are correct Ganassi most likely would have folded by now had the merger not taken place. But on the same token Earnhardt Inc would most likely have folded as a race team as well. After Jr moved over to Hendrick, the sponsorship dollar were gone.

15 Jim August 15, 2013 at 9:35 pm

@Richard Peterson- wouldn’t you like to have a crystal ball and peer into what things would look like down the road about five years. I’m not convinced Dale Jr. is an HMS- heck, I could see him someday maybe buying Teresa & Chip. A wild hunch- but heck, he has the money.
Both CG and DEI had some good days on their one, and haven’t really upped the frequency since joining forces. I think Ganassi is an open wheel man at heart, and Teresa? I suppose she’s busy looking after her daughter.

16 Jim August 15, 2013 at 9:38 pm

@ Rich Norton- EGR is about good enough to put two drivers in the top 25, and maybe if they land a driver of Busch’s caliber, maybe it ups the ante. I don’t know if a Newman can elevate EGR into a top flight team. Not a reflection on him, but EGR. Kyle Larson- I think- isn’t ready. Maybe one season or two.

17 Rich Norton August 15, 2013 at 9:42 pm

@ Richard Peterson, Humpy Wheeler did an interview that brought out a good point. Most open wheel racers that have come into NASCAR recently have a history in rear engine rear wheel drive cars. Stewart, though he came into NASCAR through Indycar, he had a history with sprint cars which have a front engine and are rear wheel drive. So he had a history with the same drive train. This may explain why racers that have great careers in Indycar or F1 struggle with NASCAR, were drivers like Stewart, Kane, even Robby Gordon seem to adapt better to the stock cars.

18 Rich Norton August 15, 2013 at 9:51 pm

@ Jim, Absolutely Larson is a talent, but please don’t bring him up to fast. He needs at least one more year at the Nationwide level two would be better. Lagano is lucky that he still has a job. He was brought up to soon, and it could have destroyed his career. And I agree that Newman most likely would not elevate EGRs program, at least not into a contending team, maybe a top 15 team from a top 25 team. EGR needs a major overhaul of their equipment to become competitive. Bringing in a new driver isn’t going to fix what is wrong, it might help but the driver isn’t the sole problem with their program.

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