Formula One team kicks Montoya free immediately

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

NASCAR fans might get a look at open-wheel racing star Juan Pablo Montoya a lot sooner than expected.

Montoya, who announced Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway that he will drive for former boss Chip Ganassi next season in NASCAR, is leaving Formula One's McLaren Mercedes team immediately.

"Team McLaren Mercedes and Juan Pablo Montoya have mutually agreed for him to step down in the forthcoming races of this year's Formula One world championship," McLaren CEO and chairman Ron Dennis said Tuesday. "We have agreed that, with so many things happening in Juan Pablo's life right now, he should take some time out of the car and prepare professionally and personally for the future."

Instead of resting up, though, Montoya could take advantage of the early release to get some experience in stock cars, a totally foreign form of racing to the 30-year-old Colombian driver, who has spent his entire career in open-wheel cars.

Ganassi told The Associated Press on Tuesday he does not yet know the details of the driver's release from McLaren, but that it means Montoya could race in Nextel Cup events this season.

"This is all new. But, if Juan is available earlier than we expected, our program for him will definitely get an early start," Ganassi said.

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