Montoya didn't want Elledge to be fired but was overridden

Updated: May 22, 2008, 1:02 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

CHICAGO -- Juan Pablo Montoya heads into this weekend's Coca-Cola 600 with his third crew chief in less than a month after Jimmy Elledge was released by Chip Ganassi Racing on Tuesday. And the racer isn't happy about it.

Elledge came aboard in late April when Ganassi moved Donnie Wingo, who had guided Montoya's transition from Formula One into NASCAR, to Reed Sorenson's team. Montoya got Elledge and was pleased with the direction his No. 42 Dodge was headed.

But in what Montoya described as a "management decision," Elledge was let go and Brian Pattie was moved from one of the Nationwide Series crews to run Montoya's team.

"I wasn't really part of it, so, I am pretty frustrated," Montoya said. "They told me 'We are thinking of getting rid of Jimmy' and I said 'Don't do it.' Next thing I knew, they did. That's what happened. You are going to have to ask somebody else about it, because I wasn't involved in this."

Although he didn't think he needed to lose Wingo when that move was made, Montoya said he understood it because he believed Wingo could help Sorenson save his struggling season. And even though the results weren't there yet with Elledge -- they were second in their debut race at Talladega, but struggled in the three after that -- Montoya liked the direction Elledge was taking the team.

"We were taking a very different route, and I was willing to see where it led," he said.

Now he starts over -- again -- and is concerned about forward progress with the entire organization. He points to his debut Cup race at Homestead in the 2006 season finale, when he was running near the top 10 before an accident with Ryan Newman ended his race.

"I think it's really hard that in my first mile-and-a-half Cup race, I was very close to getting a top-10 finish. Two years later, we're running 20th," he said. "We should be a lot further. We should be a lot better of a team right now, and we're not."

Montoya said he's spoken several times with Ganassi in the 24 hours since Elledge was let go, and expressed his frustration with the situation.

"We talked, and I told him how I felt and that's it really," Montoya said.

Montoya said he's got faith in Pattie, "He's a really smart guy," he said, but worries that all the changes over the past month are unsettling to the entire race team. He expects more movement behind the scenes.

"More has got to be coming. I don't think we have made as much progress as we need to," he said. "In the beginning of the year, I thought we made gains over where we had been running. We seem to have lost that over the last few weeks, and we need to find more speed.

"I don't think frustration is the word for how I feel. I think it's more -- there's a lot of effort put into it, and a lot of people working their butt off and we're not getting better. It's annoying."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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