“The report of my death was an exaggeration.” That’s what Mark Twain said of erroneous news reports of his death. While we’re not talking about death in particular, certainly Juan Pablo Montoya’s racing career seemed on life-support.
However, the veteran racecar driver, who is losing his NASCAR Sprint Cup ride at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (EGR), may not be finished after all. Following last week’s announcement that the 37 year old Montoya would not return in the #42 EGR Chevrolet, there were rumors circulating and breathing hope into the prospect that J.P. was looking at the possibility of moving over to IndyCar. They may be more than rumors.
Last weekend, Juan stated he wants a winning ride wherever he moves to, “I won some races here, but I miss dominating.” Yet, there are not likely any seats with an available job description like that in NASCAR. However, Montoya may be able to find a winning seat in the motorsport that gave the Colombian his grandest glory: IndyCar.
Michael Andretti said to Associated Press’s Jenna Fryer that he talked to J.P. and the result was that now Andretti Autosport is looking for a sponsor to bring Montoya back to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Juan has not confirmed who he has spoken to so far since the EGR announcement.
Questions remain such as where would Montoya fit in Michael’s lineup. Andretti Autosport has four teams running full-time right now but only two of them appear cinched down for 2014: Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti.
Montoya has driven for CART, IndyCar, Formula One (F1) and NASCAR. In two years of CART driving for Chip Ganassi, he won 10 times and grabbed the championship in his rookie season in 1999. His only event in IndyCar was the 2000 Indy 500 where he started on the front row, dominating the race and winning easily. In five-and-half seasons, he won seven times and finished third overall twice, but never really seized any dominance at Williams or McLaren. He then bolted for NASCAR to ply his wares in Sprint Cup but again, he never dominated, visiting Winners Circle only twice over a seven year span. Although he did make the Chase in ’09, his career in stock car racing has otherwise been pedestrian.
Sponsorship is so critical in motorsports and this circumstance is no different. With an ongoing recession, marketing dollars are hard to come by – so even if everyone’s in agreement, there are many funding hurdles before this deal can get done.
Return good for everyone
Montoya’s talent is undeniable when it comes to open wheel and with a huge following – for instance he has over three-quarters of a million fans on Twitter – should be able to bring added value to any marketing partnership. American open wheel racing is where J.P. garnered his biggest fame and success on the race track so this would be a natural fit for all concerned.
What happens to the GoDaddy sponsorship and James Hincliffe may be what this deal hinges on as to whether Montoya will be able to move over to IndyCar and race for Andretti Autosport. If negotiations break down with Hinchcliffe, the better likelihood Juan Pablo Montoya returns to open wheel.
The sport could use Montoya and Montoya could surely use IndyCar to bring back those winning … and dominating ways.
Mark Martin To Earnhardt Ganassi? Perfect Match
Tony Stewart’s Replacement a Business Decision
Four IndyCar title contenders remain with six races to go