NASCAR's Juan Pablo Montoya Gets a Lifeline, but Will It Save Him in 2012?

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IJanuary 9, 2012

SPARTA, KY - JULY 07:  Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, looks on during testing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Kentucky Speedway on July 7, 2011 in Sparta, Kentucky.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Juan Pablo Montoya is a fiery Colombian who has failed to ignite his NASCAR career in five full seasons after finding success as a driver in Formula One. Now he gets a lifeline that may turn his career around as a driver for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.

Amidst the dizzying whir of the spinning crew chief roulette wheel, we see Jim Pohlman out as Montoya's crew chief and a replacement who has never been a full-time crew chief.

Montoya's new crew chief is a highly-respected engineer from Hendrick Motorsports, Chris Heroy.

Heroy had the chance to taste crew chief life at JR Motorsports when they ran a third car, but it failed to satiate his desire to become a full-time crew chief.

Now Heroy has the chance to get Montoya back to making the Chase and maybe even winning races.

Montoya's crew chief, Brian Pattie, was released last July and has now moved to Michael Waltrip Racing for the 2012 season.

There is little doubt Montoya can wheel a race car, be he has failed to make the Chase since 2009.

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Montoya began his NASCAR Cup career with one race at Homestead in 2006, with 2007 being his first full-time season.

Heroy comes from Hendrick Motorsports with a wealth of knowledge (which many consider one of the premier teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series).

DOVER, DE - OCTOBER 01: Juan Pablo Montoya (L), driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, talsk with Jamie McMurray (R), driver of the #1 McDonald's Chevrolet, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on October
Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Montoya finished 21st in points during the 2011 season. His teammate at EGR, Jamie McMurray, finished a disappointing 27th in the standings.

Montoya has two career wins and 49 top-10 finishes since coming to NASCAR.

In 2009, Montoya had his best finish in points at eighth place, but other than that, his best finish in the standings was 17th.

In Formula One, Montoya was an accomplished driver from 2001-2006. He had seven wins, 13 pole positions and 30 podium finishes.

Montoya was never one to shy away from controversial moves on the track with his No. 42 Target Chevrolet.

During a somewhat boring Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis in 2009, Montoya led 116 out of 160 laps under green flag conditions.

On his final pit stop, NASCAR called a speeding penalty on him which he vehemently denied. His radio rant against NASCAR included him swearing on his wife and kids that he did not speed on the pit road.

In 2010, McMurray rejoined Chip Ganassi at EGR, winning the Daytona 500. At the March race in Las Vegas, McMurray became the focus of controversy with Montoya.

The two EGR drivers were running ninth and 10th at the mid-point of the race when McMurray lost control of his car and took out Montoya. Wrecking is bad, but wrecking a teammate is really bad.

An expletive-riddled rant ensued and his fiery Latin temper was hard to cool down despite McMurray accepting blame and making a public apology.

Now Heroy is expected to be the lifeline that rescues Montoya, getting him back in contention for wins and in the 2012 Chase.

It remains to be seen if Heroy's knowledge and personality will translate to chemistry between him and the emotional but talented Montoya or if he'll find he has bitten off more than he can chew.

One thing is for sure: Performance is lagging at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. Someone needs to step up and get Montoya in the game before his strong sponsorship with Target becomes a factor in his future.

The 2012 season is at hand and we shall soon see if Heroy and Montoya will bond and become a team to deal with or if Montoya will once again slip down the standings and disappoint.


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