Driver wants to win, in NASCAR or elsewhere
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Juan Pablo Montoya said he realized his days were numbered at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing when the organization chose not to pick up its option with the former open-wheel star earlier this year.
Officials haven't officially announced that Montoya would not return for 2014, but Montoya said that was indeed the case.
“So I kind of knew it was going to be something different (for me) next year,” Montoya said Friday at Michigan International Speedway. “They confirmed it this week and that was it.”
Montoya, who made his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start in the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2006, began competing full-time for Ganassi in 2007. He has two victories in 239 career starts heading into Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan.
He is also 22nd in the points standings, and winless in his last 108 starts, dating back to the 2010 season.
“It was a fun seven years with the Target car and Chip and everything,” Montoya, 37, said. “We worked really hard and we had our ups, our downs, but at the end of the day I want to win races. He wants to win races and we want to try something different.”
Montoya’s two NASCAR Cup wins came on road courses – at Sonoma and Watkins. He has 23 career top-five finishes, including three this season (at Richmond, Watkins Glen and Dover), and 56 career top-10s. He also has nine career Coors Light Pole Awards.
Montoya qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in 2009, finishing eighth, the only time he finished better than 17th in the final standings.
His immersion into stock cars, he said, required “a lot of learning … but I thought I picked it up pretty well. … I made the Chase my third year.
“One of the hardest things … it’s the amount of changes,” he said. “There was never any consistency and I think that was one of the hardest things (to overcome). It wasn’t because they were doing it on purpose, they were just trying new things and trying to make things better. The problem is every time you make changes it makes it harder.”
Management moves made within the organization in recent years, however, have yet to result in improved performance on the track. During his seven-year stint at EGR, Montoya worked with four different crew chiefs -- Donnie Wingo, Brian Pattie, Jim Pohlman and Chris Heroy.
Montoya said he has spoken with other teams inside NASCAR as well as IndyCar, but isn’t sure what the 2014 season will bring. Or where it might find him.
“The only thing … is I want to be in a winning car,” he said. “Whatever else I do, don’t know what I’m going to do, but I want to make sure I’m in a winning car.
“It could be with Chip (in IndyCar), it could be with somebody else. You know with Chip, something we said is … make sure we keep our friendship. We are really good friends. We have a good relationship and that was it. It’s not that bad.”
In addition to the No. 42 of Montoya, EGR also fields the No. 1 for teammate Jamie McMurray. McMurray’s fortunes haven’t been much better -- while he won three times in 2010, he has failed to finish in the top 10 in points while with the organization.
“I had a great seven years,” said Montoya. “I learned a lot. Whether you believe it or not I became a better race car driver. … I think it’s been a good experience.”
Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 while driving for team owner Chip Ganassi (one of 11 open-wheel victories he earned with the organization), and scored seven career wins (including the Grand Prix of Monaco) in Formula One.