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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 06-24-2007, 07:42 PM Thread Starter
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Montoya gets first Cup win

Montoya gets first Cup win

By MIKE HARRIS, AP Auto Racing Writer

June 24, 2007

AP - Jun 24, 9:41 pm EDT
SONOMA, Calif. (AP) -- Juan Pablo Montoya showed off his road racing prowess again Sunday, stretching his fuel to the limit and grabbing his first NASCAR Nextel Cup win.

Montoya, who qualified a disappointing 32nd in the 43-car field, was the first driver t o win on the Northern California road circuit starting further back than 13th. And he pulled it off with a combination of patience and skill at Infineon Raceway.

The Colombian driver, who jumped from Formula One to the stock car circuit late last season, got his first Cup win in his 17th start and gave team owner Chip Ganassi his first win in NASCAR's top series since Jamie McMurray won in October 2002.

``It's huge,'' Montoya said of his first victory in 17 Cup starts. ``I would say right now it's the biggest thing I've done. In open-wheel, that's what I was meant to be winning in. In stock cars, I wasn't.

``To get our first win in our first year is huge. We know we're a little bit behind on some of the ovals, but I think this is a big boost for everybody working in the shop.''

Series points leader Jeff Gordon overcame a 41st-place start to finish just behind Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart in seventh with a strategic effort in the first road race for NASCAR's new Car of Tomorrow.

Gordon, who became a father for the first time Wednesday when his daughter, Ella Sofia, was born, and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, the reigning Cup champion, were both banned from practice and qualifying on Friday and had to start from the rear of the field after NASCAR inspectors found their cars had illegally modified front fenders.

Both drivers and their crew chiefs face more penalties from NASCAR in the next few days, but they ran hard to overcome their handicapped start Sunday. Johnson's fuel strategy didn't work as well as Gordon's and, after getting into the top 10 for a while, he finished 17th.

Montoya, whose only other NASCAR victory came earlier this year in a Busch Series race on the road course in Mexico City, passed McMurray, who now drives for Roush Fenway Racing, eight laps from the end. He easily stayed in front of runner-up Kevin Harvick in the 110-lap event on the 1.99-mile, 12-turn course.

``I was very surprised by the level of the drivers here on the road course,'' Montoya said. ``In Mexico, we had a really good car and the top five cars were really strong. But, behind that, it was really easy.''

Montoya was running third, trailing leader McMurray and Harvick and desperately conserving fuel with 18 laps to go. But he passed Harvick on lap 92 and began to track down McMurray.

``The top 20 was really like, phew. You had to work for your money,'' he said. ``What really paid off at the end was I was just running behind Kevin, saving the tires and trying to keep up with him. I did that for 10, 15 laps and I started pushing, I started making up ground on them and that's when everything fell into place.''

The winner got past McMurray for a moment on lap 102, driving his Dodge past McMurray's Ford in the slow hairpin near the end of the circuit. But Montoya got too wide and McMurray was able to squeeze by.

The pass that counted came in turn two on lap 104, with Montoya getting under McMurray's car and passing easily.

``I saw he was always hugging that corner and I thought, 'This is it.' I knew I could pass him there,'' Montoya said.

Donnie Wingo, his crew chief, said it was mostly Montoya's ability to conserve fuel that won the race. Wingo figured Montoya would run out about a lap short of the end.

``We had to play a little bit of catch-up, so we had to take a gamble there at the end,'' Wingo said. ``He did a great job on saving fuel, everybody did a good job on the stops and the motor shop did a great job. Without the fuel mileage we'd have never made it.''

McMurray ran out of gas at the start of lap 109 and finished 37th while Montoya saved enough fuel to run a cool-down lap and do a victory burnout before his fuel light came on.

Harvick inherited second place when McMurray slowed, followed by his Richard Childress Racing teammates Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer, who all got great fuel mileage.

Harvick, who appeared to be getting the best mileage of them all, thought he might have the race won when McMurray slowed and Montoya was short-shifting to save gas late in the race.

``They came on the radio and told me you've got 20 laps to make up one lap of fuel and the two cars in front of you are both three laps short,'' Harvick said. ``That's how we played it and (Montoya) didn't run out of gas.''

Harvick wasn't surprised that he was chasing Montoya at the end.

``I've been a big fan of Montoya's since he came over,'' Harvick said. ``He's a great road racer, but he wasn't the fastest. The strategy won it for him.''

Robby Gordon, who started alongside pole-winner McMurray, also was a victim of failed strategy after leading a race-high 48 laps. He finished 16th.

Reed Sorenson spun out on lap 67, bringing out the last of full-course caution flags. While Robby Gordon and several of the other leaders gambled and stayed on track, opting to pit later under green, Montoya and several other contenders made their final stops under the yellow flag on lap 68.

Montoya came out of that stop 12th but moved steadily forward as the drivers ahead of him began to make their gas stops. He was third by lap 78, setting up the dramatic finish.
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 06-24-2007, 08:32 PM
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It was actually a very good race to watch if you kept the TV on MUTE. The announcers just drive me nuts with the incessant pit strategy, fuel saving chatter.

Best drive/strategy of the day went to the two Hendrick cars that were penalized for having front fenders that fit within the templates but didn’t “look right”. Moving from the back of a road course to top 10 is very difficult with so many people who don’t normally drive twisties.

NASCAR is continuing down its path of ruining racing with their arbitrary and capricious rulings that only serve to piss off more and more fans. Today’s race was one of the few sell out races of the year. California had 25,000 empty seats, Vegas had 15,000. Even the major Southern tracks find themselves with empties every weekend. All because the sport has become spec racing, really expensive spec racing.

After next year’s 50th Anniversary Daytona 500 that will most likely be my last NASCAR race. I enjoy Grand AM and American LeMan so much more for US series and F1 keeps me going for the rest of the time. I would like to see IRL and ChampCar get together and rebuild open wheel racing so we don’t have to see a race like Iowa again but I don’t have much hope that Tony George will make it happen.

Brian France and Tony George just don’t fit in their families boots.


Being smart is knowing the difference, in a sticky situation between a well delivered anecdote and a well delivered antidote - bear.
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 06-26-2007, 11:31 AM
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Buddy, I'm right there with you 100%. I find myself increasingly captivated by ALMS, and to a lesser extent, the Rolex series...Formula 1 is still the big show as far as I'm concerned, no matter how many times the TNT/FOX sycophants claim we're watching 43 "of the best drivers in the world". Whatever.

I also found the entire Iowa race to be a farce...not just what happened on-track, but that Tony George and his pride caused the open wheel series in the US to split so that he could attack big markets like Nowhere, IA where a 7/8ths mile track provided an oval version of an F1 race, with worse driving and less passing. If you're reduced to showing up in Iowa for an "Ethanol 250", and are on TV at the same time Paul Tracy punts two people in the first green laps then somehow goes on to win a race, I think it's time to reconcile.
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