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Montoya set to return to Ganassi for 2012 season

November 11, 2011, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Throughout his career racing in the United States, Juan Montoya has competed for exactly one car owner -- Chip Ganassi. They won the old CART title together, won the Indianapolis 500 together, and it was Ganassi who brought Montoya to NASCAR. So it should come as no surprise that the Colombia native has agreed to return to Ganassi's No. 42 car on the Sprint Cup tour next season.

Montoya's current contract with his race team, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, ends after this season. Although there was never any real threat of Montoya winding up anywhere else, the driver confirmed Friday that he would be back in the red and white Chevrolet in 2012, likely meaning that he had signed a contract extension. The Ganassi team traditionally does not announce extensions.

"I'll be driving this car next year ... that's a given," Montoya said at Phoenix International Raceway, site of Sunday's event. "... We're all good."

Montoya did not divulge the length of the deal. Although his contract may be done, his crew chief for next year remains uncertain. In July, Ganassi replaced former crew chief Brian Pattie with Jim Pohlman on what was originally supposed to be an interim basis. The No. 42 car has made only modest improvements in its finishing results, with a ninth-place run at New Hampshire being the program's only top-10 on an oval track since the change. Whether Pohlman remains as crew chief into 2012 depends on the car owner, Montoya said.

"I think that's more up to whatever Chip wants to do," he said. "So far, we're having a lot of fun working really well together. I need a little more speed in the car, I would think. We've been getting better the last few weeks. We've been really unlucky. I feel like the last three or four weeks, we've had cars that could get in the top 10. When there's a wreck, and we don't even cause the wrecks, we're just running around ... and it kind of sucks. but it's OK."

It's been a trying season for Montoya, who made the Chase in 2009 and won a race at Watkins Glen International the next year. This season he's fallen to 19th in points, although he hopes to overtake a few of the drivers directly ahead of him before the season ends next weekend outside Miami, where Montoya lives.

"Right now, we're really trying to enjoy ourselves, have fun," he said. "There are like three or four guys around us who are really close in points, and we're trying to beat those guys. Two or three of those guys are in Roush cars, so that's quite a challenge. But it's been fun."

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