Juan Pablo Montoya believes continuity will be important for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing as he considers next season to be key to the squad's future. The Colombian currently runs sixth in the Sprint Cup Series Chase standings, having his best season since his switch from Formula 1.
Following a rookie season when he won his first race, last year a number of changes within his team affected his performance and led to a poor season.
Having switched from Dodge to Chevrolet last winter after merging with Dale Earnhardt Inc., his EGR team started 2009 with high hopes and eventually reached their goal of making it into the series playoffs with Montoya, based on great consistency, despite not winning a single race.
Montoya has finally enjoyed some stability, working beside crew chief Brian Pattie for more than a year now, and being surrounded by the same group inside the organization since the second half of 2008. A switch to Toyota had been in the cards for his team in 2010, but they are now expected to remain with Chevrolet for a second year. The 34-year-old believes that giving continuity to what they have going this year will be key to EGR settling as a regular top contender in the future.
"For us that's very important, because the key for the future of this team is what we do next year, more than what we did this year," Montoya said. "This season was great but if we're able to keep the development and the quality of performance that we've shown this year into the next, that's going to be really important for us."
Despite being already out of the title battle, Montoya is happy with his team's progress. He says incidents at Charlotte, Talladega and Texas hampered his chances of really fighting for the championship, but he is glad to see that even when not running at his best, he can still contend for top-10 finishes on a regular basis.
"It's been a great season and a great Chase but we've just been involved in too many accidents, two of them had not even been our fault," said Montoya. "You know, you understand the Talladega accident, you had Mark Martin run over us in Charlotte and last weekend (at Texas) Carl (Edwards) ran really close to me, took the air out of the car, and just got me really loose.
"He came later, apologized and everything but it just happens. It's what racing is all about. All in all, it is nice to see how good the performance of our car is. We didn't have a great car last weekend but even like that we're running fifth and sixth, even with a car that was pretty bad balance-wise we had a good chance of scoring great points."
Montoya, who became the first foreign-born driver to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series this season, is currently at the end of the third of a five-year deal with Chip Ganassi's NASCAR outfit.