Montoya committed to Ganassi through end of NASCAR season

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Those hoping for a Juan Pablo Montoya versus Chip Ganassi rivalry – personally – will have to wait until the 2014 IZOD IndyCar Series season begins. Right now, the two are still respectful of each other and their decisions to move in different directions next year.

“Well, I tried to call him this morning to tell him about it, and actually we texted because he was in Europe,” Montoya said Monday on a conference call about relaying the news to Ganassi. “I feel like he was very excited for me. Something that we have with Chip is that we are very good friends. We have a lot of respect for each other.

“As he had to make a decision this year to go a different direction, I had to do the same thing. And I have a great opportunity and a great chance with Team Penske, and you know, we are going to be competitors and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

A Ganassi-to-Penske switch is IndyCar’s equivalent of a Red Sox-to-Yankees move in baseball. Or Packers-Bears in football. But Montoya has done something similar before in Formula One, when he left Williams after the 2004 season.

“It’s exciting. I mean, if you think about it, I lived that before in Formula One between Williams and McLaren, and that was fun,” Montoya said. “Honestly, when I raced the IndyCars, the guys to beat – you were looking where the Penskes are, and to be driving one of those, it’s fun. I’m really excited. I feel like a 5-year-old kid right now.”

Montoya and Penske Racing President Tim Cindric have ruled out the option, for now, of Montoya running a third IndyCar at the season finale at Fontana. Montoya said he remains committed to his NASCAR duties to finish out the year, although you figure it would make sense for Ganassi to field an entry at some race for Kyle Larson before his rookie season in 2014.

“I’m still committed with Chip and the NASCAR program for the next nine races. We all are working very hard to get that oval win for the end of the year and keep running as good as we can; get a couple poles and do whatever we can to the end of the year,” Montoya said.

Cindric added, “From my perspective, yeah, I’d love to run him in Fontana, but something tells me Chip’s probably not going to let that happen! We already talked about the fact that he’s got to stay focused and the commitments that he has on the 42 car there. We’re certainly not going to get in the way of any of that, and there’s a seat for him here as soon as he’s able to take it. But no, there’s no plans for that as we sit here.”

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).