Can Montoya Find Form Again
Tom Jensen, SPEEDTV.com
Of all the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers who appeared poised to have a breakout season in 2010, none seemed more ready than Juan Pablo Montoya, the fiery and fast expatriate Colombian and former star of IndyCar and Formula One.
In 2009, Montoya had made the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the first time and for the opening half of NASCAR’s playoff round was in serious title contention. Naturally, based on that, expectations were set high for 2010.
Unfortunately for Montoya, crew chief Brian Pattie and the rest of the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team, it didn’t happen. Sure, there were some high spots: Montoya won a race on the Watkins Glen road course, earning his second career Sprint Cup race victory. He also earned three poles and led a career-high 411 laps.
But a whopping eight DNFs lead to a disappointing 17th-place finish in points, and with four full Cup seasons under his belt, Montoya still has yet to win a race on an oval track, something he needs to do to legitimize himself as a true championship contender.
This year will be a critical season for Montoya as he looks to regain a Chase position and fulfill the promise he showed in 2009. The good news is, the EGR Chevrolets showed plenty of speed last season. Now, Montoya needs to finish races as well as just run fast.
And he knows it.
“I think we had the speed to make the Chase, but we didn't and it's a bit of a shame,” he said last season. “I think both cars have the capabilities of making it. But it's racing. ... It's worse if you're in the Chase and you're not in the top three today, nobody even cares."
As in years past, Montoya will get an early start to Daytona Speedweeks, as he’ll compete in the Rolex 24 Grand-Am Series race in one of Chip Ganassi’s Telmex/Target BMW-Prepared Riley Daytona Prototypes. Montoya, a two-time Rolex winner, will share a seat this year with his Sprint Cup teammate, Jamie McMurray, as well as Ganassi indyCar drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.
One positive for Montoya last season came off the track in the form of his charitable endeavors.
He was nominated for the Home Depot Humanitarian of the Year award based on his work with Formula Smiles, the foundation he and his wife Connie established to help improve the quality of life for Colombian children in vulnerable situations.
The foundation utilizes sports to complement the basic education these children receive in an effort to teach essential values, provide motivation in the classroom and to create an outlet that lets the children make good use of their free time, keeping them off the streets and away from situations involving drugs and violence. Through various events in the United States and Colombia, Montoya has raised more than $1.5 million for the foundation.