Hot 20 over the past 10 – Past decade could have been kinder to Juan Pablo MontoyaBy Ron Thornton
Juan Pablo Montoya, winner of the 2000 Indianapolis 500 among eight CART victories, winner of the 2003 Monaco Grand Prix among seven Formula One triumphs, but a winner of a single Cup race at Sonoma and another at the Glen in 239 starts. That, in a nutshell, is why Montoya was hired and why he will soon be fired as the driver of the #42 Target team of Chip Ganassi.
Montoya already had a heady resume to his credit when he arrived in NASCAR’s top division at the end of 2006 as a 31-year old. I mean, his Monaco win marked the start of eight straight podium finishes and twice he finished third in the season F-1 points standings. Like Tony Stewart before him, he has a CART season title to his credit, but unlike Stewart it is Montoya who owns the biggest Indianapolis victory.
You might get the idea that Juan Pablo Montoya is a damn good driver. He finished fifth last weekend at the Glen. Sadly, his average career finish is 20th and it seems evident that without a few rights on the track, he is left struggling even in this, his seventh full campaign.
So, is it Montoya or is it Earnhardt Ganassi Racing that has the bigger problem? Well, since 2001 Chip Ganassi has been able to celebrate a dozen times in Victory Lane. Sterling Marlin gave him two in 2001 and two more in 2002. Jamie McMurray had his first the same year, while he and Montoya each had one in 2007. Jamie added one more in 2009, then three more in 2010, including the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400, while Juan Pablo took Watkins Glen the same season.
There are teams who would be happy with that record, but not if they are owned by folks named Hendrick, Roush, Childress, Gibbs or Penske. I don’t think Stewart or Waltrip would be terribly satisfied, either. So, I guess a winner of four Indianapolis 500 races, 89 CART/IndyCar events, and nine CART/IndyCar season crowns might seek to be better, You might also get the idea that Chip Ganassi is a damn good owner of racing teams.
I expected more from Montoya. I expect more from McMurray. I expect more from Chip Ganassi. I do not know what to expect from any of them in 2014.
Michigan is next on the dance card for this Sunday. It was the track that essentially ended Ganassi’s own driving career in a 1984 wreck. As an owner, he has won there three times, with the last coming in the 2000 Michigan 500 CART race. His driver? Juan Pablo Montoya.
With his win at the Glen, Kyle Busch moves into a close second to Jimmie Johnson among those who have been hot as of late. Brad Keselowski’s runner-up run jumps him six spots on this chart, while Tony Stewart begins his fade to black. Four drivers seeking a Chase place, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, and Jeff Gordon, are all heating up at the right time. Greg Biffle has won the past two races at the venue and he will seek the fifth of his career on the weekend.
|Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||306||7||10||(6)||0||2||5|
|Martin Truex, Jr.||289||14||14||(10)||1||3||4|
|Juan Pablo Montoya||252||18||20||(22)||0||2||3|
|Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.||219||23||23||(20)||0||0||0|