The Frontstretch: 2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Juan Pablo Montoya by Mark Howell -- Monday January 6, 2014

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2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Juan Pablo Montoya

Mark Howell · Monday January 6, 2014

 

2013 Ride: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing

2013 Primary Sponsor: Target with related sponsorships through specific brands carried by the chain including Clorox (two races), Cottonelle (two races), AXE Apollo, Mountain Dew, Kellogg’s, Depends, Energizer, Kraft foods, and Gillette; secondary sponsorships in 2013 included backing from Microsoft, Dell, Tums, and Avaya.

2013 Owner: Chip Ganassi

2013 Crew Chief: Chris Heroy

Stats: 36 races, no pole positions; no wins, four top-5 finishes, eight top-10 finishes, one DNF, 138 laps led, 21st in Driver Points.

Average Start: 14.6.
Average Finish: 19.3.

Best Finish: 2nd – Dover (June).

Juan Pablo Montoya

2013 Team Ranking: No. 2 at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing behind Jamie McMurray.

High Point: The spring race at Richmond was Montoya’s best performance in 2013. After qualifying sixth, JPM led a total of 67 laps en route to a fourth place finish. The June race at Dover was another highlight for the No. 42 Target Chevrolet; Montoya qualified fourteenth but came home second after leading a total of 19 laps during the event.

Low Point: Montoya’s return to open-wheel competition in 2014 could be considered the lowest point of JPM’s 2013 Sprint Cup season, although the fall race at Talladega provided more visible trials and tribulations. After qualifying a miserable 32nd, Montoya did not even make it to the halfway point before his Target Chevy was caught up in a frontstretch accident with Marcos Ambrose’s Ford. As Jamie McMurray (Montoya’s teammate) went to Victory Lane, JPM wound up finishing in 41st-place.

Summary: The 2013 Sprint Cup season was, at least statistically, a slight improvement over the previous year. Not only did JPM have better average starting positions and better overall average finishes, but he also led more total laps. Montoya and his No. 42 Target Chevrolet enjoyed good runs at Richmond in April (started sixth, finished fourth), at Dover in June (started 14th, finished second), and at Atlanta in September (started third, finished seventh). Montoya also scored three top-tens over a four-week stretch between Watkins Glen and Atlanta.

Much of this improved performance in 2013 (on paper, at least) was because of Montoya’s one DNF for the year. While the No. 42 Chevy was able to avoid race-ending failures, the team’s consistent inconsistency spelled trouble for JPM’s Sprint Cup career. In September, it was announced that Montoya would spend 2014 behind the wheel of the No. 2 Team Penske IndyCar, news that pretty much overshadowed JPM’s 250th-career Cup start the following month at Martinsville. Montoya had met with Furniture Row Racing, among other teams, earlier in the year, but a stock car ride could not be secured for the 2014 season. Montoya’s departure from EGR paved the way for Kyle Larson to assume full-time driving duties in the Target Sprint Cup car.

Off-Track News: Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2013 away from racing had its share of difficulties, as well. Even though the year began with JPM being prominently featured on boxes of various Kellogg’s products alongside his Target Racing teammates, the most troubling news came closer to the end of the 2013 season when the IRS suggested that Montoya had falsely reported two years of personal income on his taxes. His income from 2007 and 2008 had been seriously underestimated (according to the fed’s lawsuit, as it was reported by the media in November of 2013), and the IRS sought an extra $2.7 million in back taxes from JPM and his wife.

One personal highlight for JPM during 2013 came in September when he was recognized by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The honor commemorated JPM’s achievements and long-time contributions as a professional athlete representing Hispanic culture. In addition to JPM, others receiving honors included actress Eva Longoria and Chef Jose Andres.

2014 Outlook: A return to IndyCar competition as part of Team Penske will put JPM back in very familiar and comfortable territory. Montoya is still a talented and competitive driver, so his future looks hopeful. While never gaining a solid footing in stock cars, JPM has proven himself in all manner of open-wheel machines. While EGR gets a talented newcomer with the addition of Kyle Larson, the team loses a popular and charismatic veteran with the departure of Juan Pablo Montoya.

2012 Frontstretch.com Grade: D.
2013 Grade: Montoya managed to slightly improve in 2013 versus his fiery and frustrating 2012 Cup season. While JPM failed to qualify for any poles (he earned two consecutive ones in 2012), he did better his overall average starting and finishing positions a touch. The No. 42 Target Chevrolet was out in front for nearly twice as many laps in ’13 as it was in ’12, so that’s a slight uptick in performance, as well. Given such minor improvements, give JPM a 2013 Sprint Cup season final grade of “C-.”

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