Juan Pablo Montoya isn’t sure what lies ahead for him in racing.
But his first requirement for any potential suitor, whether it’s in NASCAR, IndyCar or Grand-Am would be to give him the opportunity to drive “a winning car.”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do but I want to be in a winning car,” Montoya said. “It was a fun seven years with the Target car and (team co-owner) Chip (Ganassi) and everything. We worked really hard, 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 wanted to try something different.
“It could be with Chip. It could be with somebody else. With Chip, something we said is ‘number one, we want to keep our friendship.’ We are really good friends. We have a good relationship and that was it. It’s not that bad.”
While Montoya was disappointed by the company’s decision not to renew his contract to drive in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series beyond this season, he didn’t appear to be surprised. Certainly, over the last seven years Montoya’s equipment at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing has been hit or miss. The driver has revolved through five crew chiefs and six teammates in that time period and, over the last year, endured a complete overhaul of management and his race team. It stands to reason that part of the lack of stability can be traced to the transient nature of the No. 42 team.
Still, it’s curious why a driver with Montoya’s immense talent in open-wheel racing — seven wins and 30 podium finishes in Formula One, an Indy 500 win, a Champ Car title and three Rolex 24 victories in seven starts — never fully acclimated to stock cars. His strength was on the road courses.
On Friday, five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said that it took him roughly five years to acclimate to the different NASCAR tracks and procedures that accompany the season. Montoya didn’t seem to think that was part of the problem.
“A lot of it was learning (how to drive the cars) at the beginning,” Montoya said. “But I picked it up pretty well. I ran pretty well. I made the Chase (for the Sprint Cup) in my third year. One of the hardest things is the amount of changes. There was never ever consistency and that was one of the hardest things. They weren’t doing it on purpose. They were just trying new things to make things better. The problem is every time you make changes, it makes it harder.”
Certainly, there would be opportunities for Montoya in open wheel if he pursued that path — perhaps even with current team owner Ganassi. When asked whether Montoya has spoken to prospective employers in NASCAR, he replied, “ages ago."
“I’ve been looking at my options for a while,” Montoya said. “I wanted to make sure we had the door open to stay at Ganassi if the opportunity was here.
“I have talked to a lot of people, put it that way. I don’t want to be specific about anybody. I know some people are interested and I just want to make sure whatever I do, as I told you, I have an opportunity to win races. I grew up winning and I’ve won at everything. I won some races here, but I miss dominating.”
Montoya will attempt to take the high road for the remainder of the season. He’s not changing his philosophy regarding life — or racing. Montoya just wants to have fun — and win.
“Right now, it’s actually fun," he said. "I’m really good friends with everybody on this team. They mean the world to me. We still have a lot of racing to go. Number one thing is keep enjoying racing and go hard at it every week.”