Report: Montoya out at Ganassi in 2014

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Well, here’s one for the NASCAR silly season file. According to team sources who told the Associated Press, Juan Pablo Montoya won’t be back at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates for 2014.

Montoya’s NASCAR career has been largely underwhelming with only two wins and one Chase for the Sprint Cup appearance (eighth in 2009) since his then-shock decision to leave Formula One midway through 2006. He’s spent his entire Sprint Cup career with CGR, first in the Havoline, then Target No. 42.

He also had a successful two-year run with Ganassi in IndyCar before heading to F1. He won the 1999 CART championship as a rookie, and took the 2000 Indianapolis 500 victory a year later.

The speculation will now begin in earnest as to who could replace Montoya in the 42. Ryan Newman’s a free agent and this could be a potential landing spot for him. Kurt Busch? Possibly for the Furniture Row Racing driver, although you’d expect he’ll stay put after needing to change teams each of the last two seasons.

Logical speculation though would lead you to think Kyle Larson, Ganassi’s prized developmental driver, will play a role in the proceedings. He could either be promoted full-time or as part of a ride share with a veteran. Either way, expect that with this news, Larson’s chances of making a Sprint Cup race cameo later this year will increase substantially.

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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