CREW CHIEF CHANGE COMES AT OPPORTUNE TIME
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) -- Juan Pablo Montoya will have a new crew chief when he returns next week to Indianapolis Motor Speedway because his team replaced Brian Pattie on Tuesday.
Jim Pohlman will immediately take over as crew chief on an interim basis, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing announced. Pohlman has been with the organization since 2006 in various jobs.
"We are pleased to be able to have someone of Jim's caliber to be able to place into this role," team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. "Jim has been with us a number of years and I have confidence in his abilities to move the team forward."
Montoya, who is in a contract year with Ganassi, is 17th in the Sprint Cup standings, and 59 points out of 10th.
The timing comes at a time when the schedule suits Montoya. The Cup Series is off this weekend, but returns next week to Indianapolis, where Montoya dominated the last two years. He should have won both races, but was flagged for speeding on pit road in 2009 and crashed out of last year's race after a four-tire stop mired him in traffic.
The series also heads next month to Watkins Glen, where Montoya is the defending race winner.
But Montoya has had two rough weeks - he wasn't sure where he was supposed to line up during a late restart at Kentucky, and he ran out of gas on the final lap of Sunday's race at New Hampshire.
Pattie had been Montoya's crew chief since the 12th race of the 2008 season. He guided Montoya to only one win and one appearance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, but their work together had been much better than their statistics show.
"I'm going to help Jim get up to speed because the next three races are all races we can win," said Pattie, who was informed by Ganassi over the phone Tuesday.
Pattie, who was in the final year of his contract, said he's not been released.
The crew chief change comes a day after Richard Petty Motorsports snapped up Greg Erwin to crew chief AJ Allmendinger. Erwin, who had been with Greg Biffle since 2007 but was let go last week, replaced Mike Shiplett. The change gives RPM a crew chief who has been in the Chase three times, and comes as the team is trying to stop Allmendinger's recent slide: He's dropped from 11th to 16th in points over the last nine races.
Erwin was replaced at Roush Fenway Racing by Matt Puccia, who will try to help Biffle move from 14th in points into Chase contention.
There have been four major crew chief changes in the last month. Pat Tryson was let go at Michael Waltrip Racing in June, with Chad Johnston made the crew chief for Martin Truex Jr.