COMMENTARY | BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Juan Montoya's future is wide open -- and possibly not even in NASCAR.
Fresh off the news he is out of his ride with Chip Ganassi, Montoya addressed the situation with media at Michigan International Speedway on Friday. He said it wasn't a surprise to him.
"Well to be honest with you I think I knew from quite a while ago," he said. "They had an option earlier in the year and they didn't take it so I kind of knew it was going to be something different next year and that's it. They confirmed it this week and that was it."
So what are Juan's plans for 2013? He's not saying, but said he had already been talking to other teams earlier this year and has options -- and there is one underlying factor he will use to decide -- The ability to have a winning car.
"I don't know. The only thing I said already is I want to be in a winning car. 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," Montoya said. "It was a fun seven years with the Target car and Chip and everything. We worked really hard and we had our up's our down's, but at the end of the day I want to win races. He wants to win races and we want to try something different."
A unique aspect of Montoya is his ability to race in other disciplines too. So he could go back to Indycar, he could drive sports cars, he could do a lot of things. He wouldn't commit to returning to NASCAR, so don't be surprised if he jets completely from stock cars.
But if a competitive Cup team wants to hire him, he might go there too (perhaps swapping with Kurt Busch at Furniture Row if Kurt goes to the 42).
Regarding Ganassi, whose history with Juan goes back decades, they're still friends despite this development: "With Chip something we said is number one is make sure we keep our friendship. We are really good friends. We have a good relationship."
Fans have long noticed the lack of consistent finishes by Montoya over his seven years in the Cup series with Ganassi, and Juan noticed them too -- which is why he understands his firing. He alluded to all the changes the team made, which may not have all been the best choices.
"There was never any consistency and I think that was one of the hardest things. 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. ... I mean he has made a lot of changes through the years. A lot of changes for him were logical for me were not. It is what it is. He feels we need to do something different and that's it."
The change in employment, Montoya admitted, will be good for both him and Ganassi. Seven years is a good point at which you can say that something is working or not. This clearly wasn't working, on the grand scale of things.
"We wanted to win races and it hasn't happened," Montoya said, accepting that a new situation is good for all.
And really, it's not just about winning for Juan, it's about "dominating", as he used to do in his Champ Car days -- perhaps a hint of the future?
"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."
That won't be an easy thing to do anywhere -- and if he wants to dominate it's more likely to happen with a top Indycar team. So if I had to bet, that's where I'd put Montoya next year. Especially since he's sort of already referring to NASCAR in the past tense.
"Well I was committed to NASCAR you know what I mean and when you are committed to NASCAR you want to make sure your head is in NASCAR. My heart always has been in open wheel. I had a lot of fun in NASCAR and you know we will see," he said Friday.
Sounds like NASCAR we'll be saying "Adios, Juan" come Homestead. I think he's been good for the sport, but to achieve what he wants there really isn't a place for him in NASCAR. I think it would a lot of fun to see how he would do in open-wheel if he transitions back.
Other drivers comment on Montoya situation
Here's what some other drivers had to say about the Montoya news on Friday at MIS:
Jimmie Johnson was a bit surprised at first, but understood why it happened:
"Juan has been with Ganassi for so long that it did catch me off guard. I'm used to seeing Ganassi winning races and running up front through the open wheel world and I would imagine there would be a shake-up at Ganassi through the off-season. But that did catch me off-guard. They've been through some crew chiefs. If I look at the evolution of things, you usually go through a couple of crew chiefs and a driver change and that's kind of what's going on. So, yes; shocked, but the more I think about it I feel like there was some change coming there."
Kyle Busch said Montoya's team was running better in 2013, but it was just too little, too late:
"They were running better this year, so I figured that there would be some negotiations there, but it sounds like there may not have been any. I don't know the whole story. There's got to be some underlying reasons there."
NOTE: Matt Myftiu is at Michigan International Speedway covering the racing this weekend.
Matt Myftiu lives in Michigan, has been a walking encyclopedia of NASCAR since immersing himself in the sport over 15 years ago, and has worked as a journalist for two decades. His blog on the sport, NASCAR: Beyond the Track, has been published by The Oakland Press for the past 5 years. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu.
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