Montoya’s departure sets up dominoes game

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 16: Kurt Busch, driver of the #78 Furniture Row / Serta Chevrolet, looks on from the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 44th Annual Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 16, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 16:  Kurt Busch, driver of the #78 Furniture Row / Serta Chevrolet, looks on from the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 44th Annual Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 16, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
BROOKLYN, MI – AUGUST 16: Kurt Busch, driver of the #78 Furniture Row / Serta Chevrolet, looks on from the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 44th Annual Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 16, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, Mich.–Juan Pablo Montoya’s impending departure from Earnhardt Ganassi Racing leaves a desirable open seat for 2014. As the silly-season dominoes start to fall, the question becomes: Who will fill it?

It’s no secret that owner Chip Ganassi has 21-year-old prodigy Kyle Larson signed to an eight-year contract. Whether Larson is ready to make the leap to full-time Cup racing after one season in the Nationwide Series is an open question.

It’s also no secret that Kurt Busch had discussions with EGR long before the announcement of Montoya’s departure. To Busch, the 2004 Cup champion, the landscape hasn’t changed appreciably since the parting between Ganassi and Montoya became official.

“It hasn’t changed anything,” Busch said Friday at Michigan. I’m good friends with Felix Sabates, and I know Chip real well, the whole gang–(team manager) Max Jones, (EGR president) Jake Lauletta–and they came up with that decision, not based off any of the talks I’ve had with them, but it is a potential opportunity. That’s for sure.”

Busch also is talking to his current team, Furniture Row Racing, about a possible extension, but his primary focus is on qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. With four races left before the Chase field is set at Richmond, Busch is 11th in the Cup standings, two points behind Martin Truex Jr. in 10th.

“The focus is making the Chase, and we have four weeks to go,” said Busch, who threw the first pitch at a Colorado Rockies game earlier this week. “We’re in a great position. It’s been neat to feel the energy of the team. We spent a week in Colorado meeting with Denver media, and they’ve adopted us as a fifth sports entity for that town. It’s really neat. They talk Broncos, they talk Rockies, and now they’re talking us.

“So it’s cool to have talks with Furniture Row about what we can do in 2014 and beyond. The Ganassi thing came up, and other phone calls have happened. Nothing’s been changed. We’re just really focused on the Chase and what we can do in the next four weeks together.”

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.