The Frontstretch: 2012 NASCAR Driver Review: Juan Pablo Montoya by Mark Howell -- Wednesday January 2, 2013

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2012 NASCAR Driver Review: Juan Pablo Montoya

Mark Howell · Wednesday January 2, 2013

 

Juan Pablo Montoya

2012 Ride: No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

2012 Primary Sponsor: Target, with related sponsorships through specific brands carried by the store including Clorox, Energizer, Huggies Diapers, and Degree for Men. Secondary sponsorships included backing Microsoft, Dell, Tums, and Avaya; the No. 42 car also ran a special paint scheme related to singer/songwriter Taylor Swift during the Fall race at Kansas.

2012 Owners: Teresa Earnhardt & Chip Ganassi

2012 Crew Chief: Chris Heroy

Stats: 36 races, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, two top-10s, two poles, five DNFs, 22nd in points.
Best Finish: 8th, twice (Bristol – Spring & Michigan – June).
Average Finish: 21.7.

2012 Team Ranking: 2nd of 2 at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. Montoya, whose season was nothing short of disastrous was a step behind fellow underachiever Jamie McMurray all year long.

High Point: Qualifying for two consecutive pole positions in August (at Pocono and Watkins Glen) was the highlight of Montoya’s year. Despite just two top-10 finishes and a lap completion mark of almost 97%, JPM proved that, during qualifying he still had the ability to outrun the best during a one-lap, let-it-all-hang-out type of scenario.

Low Point: Juan Pablo Montoya’s worst moment occurred early (and received the most attention) when his car slid into a jet dryer during the Daytona 500. Not only did the subsequent explosion result in a destroyed Chevrolet, along with a two-hour red flag period, but footage of the fiery accident ran as a lead story on news broadcasts that Tuesday morning (of course, the 500 had been postponed by weekend rain until Monday evening in primetime). Luckily, both driver and jet dryer man were unhurt in one of the most random accidents in NASCAR history, occurring under caution when Montoya’s car lost control on the backstretch while getting up to speed following a pit stop.

Summary: The 2012 Sprint Cup season was anything but kind to Juan Pablo Montoya and his No. 42 Target Chevrolet team. Mediocre qualifying runs gave way to equally poor race results. With the exception of back-to-back pole positions at Pocono and Watkins Glen, paired with two eighth-place finishes during early events at both Bristol and Michigan there was little for anyone to hang their hat on at EGR.

Inconsistency, long a hallmark of this driver’s aggression became a big problem. Montoya’s freak accident during the season-opening Daytona 500 was followed by four more DNFs. Superspeedways were especially difficult on the veteran driver, a sign Lady Luck abandoned him too many times in 2012. The debacle at Daytona in February was matched by an accident during the July race, and runs at Talladega were marred by a wreck in May and a blown engine in October. Montoya’s pole position at Watkins Glen gave way to an accident (and a 33rd-place finish) in August, adding to the team’s woes in 2012. Add in a 34th at Sonoma, and Montoya’s bread and butter is what helped make him toast; he was out of Chase contention by early summer. How bad did it get for what was once one of the sport’s up-and-coming contenders? In the final dozen races of the season, he registered just one top-15 result, a 12th at Phoenix and failed to lead a single lap.

Off Track News: Montoya’s mangled-and-scorched Chevrolet from the 2012 Daytona 500 found a resting place in Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s. Whiskey River “graveyard” of wrecked race cars (JPM’s crew chief, Chris Heroy used to be an engineer at Hendrick Motorsports). In March, Montoya played the role of “Mr. Popular NASCAR Driver” himself and made the cover of ESPN Deportes La Revista (the Spanish version of ESPN the Magazine). It was his second appearance; the first came in February of 2007, just prior to his rookie season in NASCAR. Montoya was also named “The First-Ever All-Time Greatest Chip Ganassi Racing Driver” in bracket-styled fan voting in May, earning the honor after gaining more votes than 2012 Indianapolis 500 winner (and Ganassi teammate) Dario Franchitti.

2013 Outlook: A switch to Hendrick Motorsports engines may be just the help JPM and team needs in 2013. Car owner Chip Ganassi decided to go with Hendrick despite the long partnership between Earnhardt Ganassi and Richard Childress Racing; motors provided by that pairing have powered the No. 42 Chevy for years. Additional changes in personnel are always possible, so long as performance continues to wane, but don’t expect the driver to be one of them. Montoya has signed an extension with the team, sponsorship from Target is secure and Ganassi appears to have unyielding faith in the former open-wheeler despite just two victories, both on road courses, since moving to Sprint Cup full-time in 2007.

2011 Frontstretch.com Grade: C.
2012 Grade: A final grade of D for the year given that Montoya and team could not score more than two top-10 finishes. Back-to-back pole positions were a highlight, but not a bright enough one to outshine the glare to come from the Daytona 500 debacle. The No. 42 Target Chevrolet team has ample resources and talent – there’s no excuse for this bunch to not perform better.

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