NASCAR Michigan 2013: Montoya not surprised by release from Earnhardt-Ganassi

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Juan Pablo Montoya was not surprised that Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing didn't renew his contract for 2014 and he understands why the team is moving in a different direction.

As he sought to improve the performance of his struggling NASCAR team, Chip Ganassi has changed crew chiefs, made numerous personnel changes behind the scenes and even changed engine suppliers. None of those changes have improved the consistency of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, though, leading to more drastic measures.

That led to Ganassi taking the dramatic step of announcing that Juan Pablo Montoya will not return next season as driver of the No. 42 EGR entry.

The news that his contract would not be renewed did come as a surprise to Montoya, who is in the midst of another inconsistent season that has him 22nd in points.

"They had an option earlier in the year and they didn't take it, so I kind of knew it was going to be something different next year and that's it," Montoya said Friday at Michigan International Speedway. "They confirmed it this week and that was it."

With a CART championship and a victory in the Indianapolis 500 on his résumé -- in addition to seven victories in Formula One - few drivers have as diverse a background as Montoya. What he does in 2014, however, is something he is still trying to sort out.

Montoya has talked with other teams about a ride for next year, but would not divulge what teams he's had discussions with or even if those opportunities involve staying in NASCAR. One possibility could include him driving a sports car fielded by Ganassi in the United SportsCar Racing.

"It could be with Chip it could be with somebody else," he said. "You know with Chip, something we said is number one is make sure we keep our friendship. We are really good friends.

"I wanted to make sure we had the door open to stay at Ganassi if the opportunity was here."

Whatever direction he heads in next year, Montoya wants the opportunity "to be in a winning car." That's something he doesn't feel he had at EGR, as the organization has undertaken numerous overhauls in the last few years to improve its sagging fortunes.

"It wasn't because they were doing it on purpose, they were just trying new things and trying to make things better," Montoya said. "The problem is every time you make changes, it makes it harder."

"We wanted to win races and it hasn't happened. We've been close this year but, for one reason or another, it hasn't really happened. I think a change will be good for him. It will be a good change for me. I think it will be fun."

EGR has not indicated who will replace Montoya, but they have contacted Kurt Busch. The 2004 Cup champion has done exceedingly well this season driving for Furniture Row Racing, a single-car with limited resources. Busch is currently ranked 11th in the standings, just two points out of 10th and a guaranteed spot in the Chase.

Busch, a free agent at the end of the year, has expressed his desire to align himself with a team that would allow him to regularly contend for wins and a second title. EGR would seem to fit the description of what he is looking for in a potential employer.

"The Ganassi thing came up and other phone calls have happened," Busch said.

"It hasn't changed anything, I'm good friends with Felix Sabates and I know Chip real well and the whole gang," Busch said. "They came up with that decision not based off any of the talks that I've had with them, but it is a potential opportunity that's for sure."

More from SB Nation:

NASCAR power rankings

Who will Chip Ganassi sign to replace Montoya?

Juan Pablo Montoya not returning to EGR in 2014

Brian Vickers to drive No. 55 MWR car full-time

Longform: The good times and hard life of Dick Trickle

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