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Dale Earnhardt Jr. shocked by Juan Montoya's departure from No. 42

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff  August 14, 2013 03:03 PM

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LOUDON, N.H. --- Dale Earnhardt Jr., like most of his NASCAR brethren, was surprised to learn Tuesday that Juan Pablo Montoya, who defected from Formula One to drive full-time in the Sprint Cup Series in 2007 for Chip Ganassi Racing, would not be returning to the No. 42 car in 2014.

"It was a shock to me,'' said Earnhardt, speaking to reporters Wednesday during a break in the Hendrick Motorsports team test at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "Iím sure Juan and Chip have had these discussions about it and it wasnít something he would find out like everyone else did.

"It was funny, because there was no discussion about it. You normally hear about these things underground a little bit earlier before they happen. I didnít hear anything about it. I was really shocked.''

Montoya, 37, won twice in 239 series starts and recorded 23 top fives, 56 top 10s, and nine pole victories. In 22 starts this season, Montoya has had three top fives, including a runner-up finish at Dover.

But judging from the manner in which some of Montoya's competitors spoke about him, it appeared the Colombian-born driver was not likely to continue with his stock car racing career.

"I donít know what Juanís plans are, but heís been a lot of fun to have in the series,'' Earnhardt said. "If he wanted to, he didnít have to be here. He didnít have to try and come back and race in this series.

"Heís had a pretty good career, and he doesnít have anything to prove, I guess is my point," Earnhardt said. "But heís been a lot of fun to have him around. I was worried about him being a Formula One driver and how the culture was so different and how he would fit in and interact with us.

"Iíve always enjoyed working with him and racing with him and competing with him. Heís been a good guy off the racetrack. Itís been fun having him around. I hope he sticks around, but you just never know. He just kind of picks his own battles, so you never know where heís going to race next.''


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