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Montoya has no regrets over NASCAR career

November 16, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

Juan Pablo Montoya

Outgoing Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver could return for a road course event

RELATED: Full Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Juan Pablo Montoya's final weekend as a full-time NASCAR driver began as so many others have over the course of his career at the sport's highest level -- with a car that showed potential, but was going to need plenty of work to get there.

It was Montoya's NASCAR experience in microcosm, one that showed flashes in a pair of road-course victories and a single berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but not enough for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing to retain the former Indianapolis 500 champion beyond this season. Following Sunday's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Montoya will return to his open-wheel roots and compete for Roger Penske on the IndyCar circuit.

"It's been up and down. We've had everything," said Montoya, who qualified 27th. "We won some races, and that was good. We made the Chase, and that was good. But like last year, as a team, we were nowhere. And when you run 20th, it’s not fun. I don’t think it's fun for anybody to run 20th. It was a tough year. But this year we've been coming on pretty strong, and we gained on the car, and it's been fun. When you run good, you have a good time."

Indeed, Montoya has enjoyed some of his better runs this season -- including sixth last weekend at Phoenix -- since EGR announced that current Nationwide Series driver Kyle Larson would take over the No. 42 car beginning next season. But overall, Montoya was never able to build on early breakthroughs like his victory at Sonoma in 2007 or his Chase berth in 2009, and he was part of an Earnhardt Ganassi organization whose two cars have often languished well down in the standings.

And yet despite those struggles, Montoya said he has no regrets about his move from Formula One to stock cars, which began when the Colombia native made a Nationwide Series start at Memphis late in the 2006 season. His Sprint Cup debut was in Homestead later that same year.

"It was great. I got to move my family here to the States, which was big. We live here in Miami, that is great. You never know how things work around, you know? One of my dreams all my life has been to work with Roger (Penske). And this, funny enough, his biggest competitor gave me the chance to go there. So it's great," he said.

"I have a lot of friends here, a lot of people. I think the people in NASCAR have been really good to me, and I appreciate that a lot. I had a great time. Did I want more success? Yeah, everybody wanted more success. But it is what it is."

After Sunday, Montoya's next race won't be until the 2014 open-wheel opener in March. "I think it's great. It's going to give me plenty time to prepare," he said. And his goals with Penske are simple: "Try to win races and run up front," he added. "Do what I do."

And yet, Sunday's Sprint Cup finale may not be the last time Montoya is seen in a stock car. He left open the possibility that he might return to NASCAR for a road course event one day, given that Penske fields entries in both disciplines.

"You never know," Montoya said. "I think that’s up to Roger. My main focus is going to be the IndyCar, 100 percent, and then we'll go from there."

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