Juan Pablo Montoya will be a fine Nextel Cup driver someday, and he very well could be terrific as early as next year. But how will we know? One thing that’s been lost in the hoopla over a current Formula One driver moving to NASCAR is the lack of performance by the Chip Ganassi Racing team over the last couple of years.
A Ganassi-owned car hasn’t won since 2002, when Jamie McMurray pulled off a stunner at Charlotte. In 2003, Ganassi’s drivers were 13th, 18th and 35th in the point standings, and in 2004 they were 11th, 21st and 22nd. Last year, McMurray was 12th and then he bolted for Roush Racing, Casey Mears was 22nd and Sterling Marlin 30th in his final year before leaving for MB2 Motorsports. This season, team leader Mears is 15th, while rookies Reed Sorenson and David Stremme are 22nd and 35th, respectively, though Stremme didn’t run the road course at Sonoma.
The point of all those mediocre numbers? Montoya isn’t stepping into a Hendrick or Roush car, so even if he drives his butt off – and I have no doubt he will – it will be difficult to gauge his performance. Say Montoya goes to Bristol and finishes 15th, one lap down. Disappointing? Maybe not. Anyone who expects Montoya to come in and win races is kidding themselves. Maybe when and if Ganassi gets its program running well, Montoya can be fairly judged.
Until then, he’ll be a middle-of-the-pack driver because Ganassi is a middle-of-the-pack team.
And after watching all three of the Ganassi/Sabates cars perform on Sunday, I'm convinced the only thing that will keep Juan Pablo Montoya out of victory lane next year will be the Ganassi/Sabates cars.
I was not happy with Casey's decision to move to HMS when it first happened. I am a Dodge girl that grew up a Rusty fan, and Rusty fans are NOT Jeff Gordon & Co fans. But I'm excited that Casey will finally be on a team that is up to today's standards in racing. And I've fully accepted and embraced his future at HMS, even if it's in the (supposed) cursed 25 car.