Earlier this week, we learned Juan Pablo Montoya will not be back at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates next year.
I think what we have seen as far as Juan Pablo is concerned is that he’s like any race-car driver. Early on, when we really thought that things we’re going to happen well, the relationship between he and crew chief Brian Pattie at the time was so strong. They really had things going their way.
Unfortunately, the Ganassi organization wasn’t as strong as it needed to be and they went through some down times. That really put a stress on their relationship to produce, and when it didn’t happen, some mistakes were made and it broke those guys up. I don’t know how much of it was Juan Pablo himself and how much was the team.
And I think the other part of the situation could be coming from where he was in Formula One, and all the success and the monetary value he warranted at the time has diminished somewhat.
Chip Ganassi is a businessman and he realizes that this science project has not been a total failure, because they’ve had some success, but it just maybe isn’t going to pay off with the dividends that it needs to.
And I think the other part of that equation when I look at Juan Pablo has to be the Kyle Larson situation. I think any time you have someone as talented as Kyle in the wings, and you have someone with Juan Pablo’s age whose opportunity to achieve something has not really blossomed like we thought it would, all those things factor into it.
Chip is looking at, “What do I have to do to keep his team motivated and what’s in the best interest of our company long-term?” And that’s when you have to start making hard decisions as far as Juan Pablo, what he has earned, all the things he has done. And Chip has to ask himself, “How do I handle Juan Pablo?”
When you’re in Chip’s situation, you know you’ve got a young up-and-comer like Kyle Larson ready to get up there and get it done. It’s just a sad state of affairs for Juan because he’s a very talented driver, and I think he’s very well-respected, not only in NASCAR, but around the world for his racing success. It will be interesting to see what choices he makes as to whether he wants to stay in our sport or whether he goes somewhere else and races in another series somewhere else in the world. I don’t know.
I’ve always enjoyed Juan’s personality and what he brought to the table — he’s kind of a version of Tony Stewart. He’ll say anything, he’ll do anything. You don’t know what to expect. He’s accomplished a lot, too. I’ve always enjoyed having him around our sport. It’s a shame to see he and Chip split up, but I hope he can find somebody to give him an opportunity to continue on.