Montoya's time runs out at EGR

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The decision not to re-sign Juan Pablo Montoya for the 2014 Sprint Cup season basically came down to two things for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing owner Chip Ganassi.


The future.

The results, or lack of results, speak volumes. Since making the Chase in 2009, Montoya has won once -- in 2010 at Watkins Glen -- and finished no better than 17th in points.

Everyone involved with the organization hoped this year would be different, with engines from Hendrick Motorsports and former HMS engineer Chris Heroy as the crew chief.

And the cars have been much better.

Unfortunately for Montoya, the results have not. Despite several near wins, including a heartbreaking loss at Richmond where a late caution wiped out his lead, the 37-year-old Colombian-born driver is 22nd in points. His average finish of 20.8 is only slightly better than the 21.7 from a year ago.

Ganassi's frustration with the results rang loudly when I asked him to comment on Montoya's season prior to last month's Brickyard 400.

"Week to week, Juan and Jamie [McMurray] are running in the lead pack for most of the race … but you just can't run in the lead pack; you need to finish in the lead pack," Ganassi said.

The but should have been a hint that this was a possibility.

Minority team owner Felix Sabates reiterated that message on Tuesday, saying EGR has given Montoya good equipment. He said at some point if the results aren't there, a change has to be made.

"There's no science to it," Sabates said.

Then there's the future. EGR has 21-year-old developmental driver Kyle Larson turning heads in the Nationwide Series. The organization either has to commit now or run the risk of losing him to another owner not willing to be patient, even if that's best for Larson.

There also are several veteran drivers available who might not be if EGR waits until the end of the season to make a move. The most high profile are 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch, reigning Brickyard 400 champion Ryan Newman and AJ Allmendinger.

Busch appears committed to Furniture Row Racing, but the opportunity to go to a multi-car team with HMS support -- as well as a top sponsor -- could be enticing if the sponsor is willing to take a chance.

Newman, who has been given notice at Stewart-Haas Racing to make room for Kevin Harvick, hasn't lit it up the past four years. But he does have a win in each of those seasons and 55 combined top-10s.

Montoya has only 29 top-10s.

There's speculation that Allmendinger will be offered the No. 47 of JTG Daugherty Racing in 2014. He's coming off a top-10 finish for that team at Watkins Glen.

So considering the future, EGR couldn't wait.

"We like to keep all our options open," Sabates told ESPN.com. "At this point there are several drivers looking for an opportunity. We have a great ride, a great sponsor. We'll keep all of our options open and won't make a decision for a while."

Then he added it wasn't that tough a decision when you consider all that was at stake.

"I don't think it's a big deal," Sabates said.

Sabates loves Montoya. But Sabates is first and foremost a businessman, and NASCAR in the end is big business.

"Our sport is like a merry-go-round," Sabates said. "You never know when the merry-go-round will stop."

It has stopped for Montoya at EGR after this season. Whether he lands with another team or calls it quits on a great career in motorsports remains to be seen.

We never thought Mark Martin would drive for another team besides Roush Fenway Racing, yet he's been with several others. We never thought Harvick would drive for another team besides Richard Childress Racing, and he's moving on.

It's hard to imagine Montoya driving for a lesser team than EGR, and it's harder to imagine under the current climate him finding a better ride than the one he'll leave.

"He'll be fine," Sabates said. "Don't count him out."

If Montoya finds another ride it'll come down to the same two things that cost him this one.


The future.

And if he can guarantee success in both.