NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2011 NASCAR Driver Review: Juan Pablo Montoya

Juan Pablo Montoya

2011 Ride: No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
2011 Primary Sponsors: Target, Cars 2
2011 Owner: Chip Ganassi
2011 Crew Chiefs: Brian Pattie (Daytona – Loudon (July)), Jim Pohlman (Indy – Homestead)
2011 Stats: 36 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 8 top 10s, zero DNFs, 21st in points

High Point: Despite not scoring any wins in 2011, Montoya and his No. 42 Chevrolet accomplished something perhaps even more impressive: he completed 99.5% of the total laps run during the Sprint Cup season. The significance of this feat was compounded by the level of overall competition seen amongst Cup teams in one of the sport’s finest years. Montoya and his EGR crew showed how running all day each week meant almost as much as finishing first a handful of times during the year. A third-place finish at Las Vegas in March was as close to victory lane as JPM could get in 2011, his third consecutive season with the No. 42 team at EGR.

Low Point: Consistency was in short supply for Montoya in 2011. Despite stringing together a few top-20 runs at a couple of points during the season, and scoring eight top-10 finishes overall, the 2011 Cup series resembled a high-speed rollercoaster for JPM. His average starting position of 18.2 for the year resulted in an average finishing position of 18.5. Montoya put his No. 42 Chevy upfront for a total of 125 laps out of the 10,602 he ran – an admittedly disappointing 2011 performance for this tried-and-true competitor. Getting caught up in wrecks – especially late in the season – hurt the team’s momentum, despite the fact that Montoya and his crew seemed to enjoy improved overall chemistry.

Other low points to affect JPM during 2011 were his ongoing feud with Stewart-Haas driver Ryan Newman (repeated clashes early in the season that led to harsh words, supposed punches thrown and a meeting with NASCAR for both men), and the arrest in August of two crew members with the No. 42 Chevy for drug trafficking. Both crewmen were fired by EGR and suspended by NASCAR for their illegal activities.

Summary: Montoya got off to a pretty strong start in 2011, scoring four top-10s in the first six races of the season – including one pole (at Fontana), a third-place finish at Las Vegas, and a fourth at Martinsville. Montoya and the No. 42 Target Chevy wouldn’t enjoy another top-10 run until the 14th race of the season at Pocono.

After an up-and-down summer (mostly down), JPM underwent a crew chief change following his 30th-place finish at New Hampshire. Brian Pattie was replaced by Jim Pohlman as the series moved to Indianapolis, a switch that preceded Montoya’s 28th-place run in the Brickyard 400. Pohlman remained atop the pit box for the duration of the 2011 season while JPM continued to show promise in qualifying, only to struggle (for the most part) in races. By the end of the year, JPM could climb no higher than 21st in Sprint Cup points.

Team Ranking: First of two. Montoya was the highest-ranking driver for the two cars at EGR, finishing the season six positions better than teammate Jamie McMurray.

Off-Track News: Montoya and team had a busy 2011 away from the track. Not only did JPM celebrate his 150th career Cup start in March, but in May his sponsorship with Energizer led to the “Light up the Night” event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Energizer – in affiliation with Montoya’s No. 42 Chevy and EGR – distributed LED headlamps to everyone in attendance at the Sprint All-Star race in hopes of setting a new world’s record for simultaneous flashlights in use. The old record of 1,000 was easily shattered by the 65,000 fans present for the Saturday night event.

In October, Montoya was inducted into the Miami Sports Hall of Champions for his career achievements both on-and-off the track. This honor was followed in November by the third annual “Race Day with Juan Pablo Montoya” at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This exclusive “meet-and-greet” with JPM prior to the Cup finale at Homestead (conducted in partnership with Homestead-Miami Speedway) raised funds for Montoya’s Formula Smiles Foundation, his successful charity that helps needy Colombian children.

2012 Outlook: Experience is always a good teacher, and Montoya had a front-row seat for what was an exciting and hyper-competitive Sprint Cup season in 2011. If JPM can continue stringing together strong qualifying efforts with his amazing completed-lap percentage, more top 10s, more top fives and some much-needed wins should be headed his way next year.

The addition of former Hendrick Motorsports engineer Chris Heroy as Montoya’s crew chief in 2012 should help the improvement process along. Heroy was engineer on the No. 88 car in 2004 and has spent the past six years with the No. 5 team. As a crew chief, Heroy sat atop the pit box in 2011 for NNS races with both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson. Jim Pohlman, who served as Montoya’s crew chief during the second-half of 2011, will remain with EGR in another capacity.

As such, the combination of new personnel, continued loyal sponsorship and renewed enthusiasm should make Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2012 a very happy and successful new year.

2007 Frontstretch Grade: C
2008 Grade: D
2009 Grade: A-
2010 Grade: B-
2011 Grade: C

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