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Motorsports 101 Debate: Who Will Replace Juan Pablo Montoya at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing in 2014

August 14th, 2013 at 10:30 AM
By Mark Eddinger

NASCAR Silly Season is in full swing. On Tuesday it was learned that Brian Vickers will drive full-time for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2014 and that Juan Pablo Montoya has joined Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch as big name free agent drivers after Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing announced that he would not be back with the team driving the No. 42 car in 2014. Motorsports 101 debates who will replace Montoya.

Kurt Busch – By Clayton Caldwell

Juan Pablo Montoya will not be in the No. 42 Chevrolet for the 2014 season and now the speculation turns to who will be the driver of the that ride in 2014.
 
'Juan Pablo Montoya' photo (c) 2013, Marco Becerra - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
 
There is no doubt in anyone’s minds that 21-year old Kyle Larson is a candidate to drive the No. 42 Chevrolet for the 2014 season. However, Larson can be the future of the organization and while he may be having a good year in the Nationwide Series in 2013, Larson still may not be ready for a full-time cup ride. Rushing young kids to the Cup Series with little experience can be dangerous. While Larson has shown a lot of promise in his career he hasn’t gotten a win in the Nationwide Series and sits eighth in the points. It’s nitpicking but you don’t want to rush a kid and ruin his career just because you can.

It’s not like there are not valuable options out there. Both Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch are available for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing to hire for the No. 42 car. Newman has 15 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins and Kurt Busch is a Cup Champion. Busch’s problem has never been his talent; it’s always been his behavior. However, Target may like the brash attitude that ruffles people’s feathers. There is no doubt that Busch can win races in that car and run better than Montoya did.
 
'' photo (c) 2013, Parker Anderson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
 
Obviously it all comes down to what Target wants. Does Target want the young hot shoe talent in Larson or do they want to win now no matter what it costs. By no means does passing on Larson right now say he won’t be a star, because he definitely has the potential. However, look at Ricky Stenhouse Jr in 2013. He’s a two-time Nationwide Series champion and currently sits 20th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. Stenhouse proved he could run in the Nationwide Series, where the competition is lesser as are the teams. There is little doubt that Stenhouse will have a better year in 2014 than 2013.
 
Will Larson be ready for the Cup Series? Not being 100 percent sure of that is a problem and if that’s the case then it’s Kurt Busch’s ride to lose.
 
Kyle Larson – By Mark Eddinger

Kyle Larson is 21-years old and under an Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing developmental driver contract. His name has been rumored for this ride for almost a year now when he first broke onto the NASCAR scene in late June 2012 when he finished 10th at Kentucky in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut driving for Turner Motorsports.

He is one of the top young talents to enter the sport and might be the one with the most hype since Joey Logano did so at the end of the 2008 season. A lot of people feel that Logano was moved up too quick to the Sprint Cup level, running his first full season in 2009 at the age of 19, and are cautioning against doing the same with Larson.

Larson though could be a future superstar in the sport and that has come from the mouths of Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon. Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing would be wise to put Larson in the No. 42 with sponsorship from Target starting full time in 2014. Larson is one of those Tony Stewart type drivers that wants to race anything at anytime and as a young driver that is a good thing. As long as Target does not have an issue with that the seat should be Larson's.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series needs an infusion of young talent and Larson can be at the beginning of that. Larson won the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship after scoring two wins and 12 top 10 finishes in the 14 races. He also scored three top 10's in four Truck Series races in 2012 and in two Truck starts this season he won at Rockingham and finished second at Eldora.

'Kyle Larson Wins' photo (c) 2012, Mike Kalasnik - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

He is running the full Nationwide Series schedule for Turner Scott Motorsports and through 21 races is looking for his breakthrough win. He has 12 top 10's and is currently eighth in the point standings.

The two big name free agent drivers that EGR will certainly look at are Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman. Both are talents and have a lot of experience. Both could be on track to land in other rides though other than at EGR in place of Montoya. Regan Smith or Justin Allgaier could be outside possibilities but picking them over Larson doesn't seem to make any sense.

"Kyle Larson is one of the prospects, but he's one of several," EGR minority owner Felix Sabates said on Tuesday.

It would be surprising if the young prospect Larson doesn't move up to Cup in 2014.

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Tags: Clayton Caldwell, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, Felix Sabates, Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya, Justin Allgaier, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Mark Eddinger, Motorsports, NASCAR, Regan Smith, Ryan Newman, Sprint Cup Series, Turner Scott Motorsports

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