Miami's Montoya Aims To Repeat First Series Win at Infineon

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The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to wine country this weekend — Sonoma, Calif., for the Toyota/ Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway. While all the drivers are preparing for the first of two road-course races on the schedule, Miami’s very own Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) and new crew chief Brian Pattie will be intently focused on defending Montoya's only series win.
 
In last year's race at Infineon—dubbed “one of the most compelling of the season”—the Colombian-born Montoya netted his first Sprint Cup victory in what was his first full season on the NASCAR circuit.
 
“It’s as big a victory as I’ve had,” Montoya told reporters after passing pole-sitter Jamie McMurray with fewer than 10 laps to race in the 110-lap event. “People ask me about winning Indy ….but open-wheel was what I was meant to be winning in—stock cars are not. To get a win in my first year is huge.”
 
“It was an amazing accomplishment for the sport, as it exemplifies the success of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program, relating to both participants and audience base,” said Homestead-Miami Speedway President Curtis Gray. “This was a big step forward in the recognition of a world-class Hispanic driver.
 
“And with Juan Pablo being a South Florida resident, it’s also very important for Homestead-Miami Speedway and our own outreach to an expanding fan base. He’s reached the top level of some of the greatest stock car drivers in the world by winning a Sprint Cup event, which for him is a brand new circuit.”
 
With that win, Montoya joined Mario Andretti as one of only two drivers in motorsports history to win the Indianapolis 500, and a race in both Formula One and the Sprint Cup Series. It marked only the third time—and first in more than three decades—that a foreign-born driver had won on NASCAR’s top circuit (Canadian Earl Ross, 1974, Martinsville; Italian-born Andretti, 1967, Daytona 500).
  
“I think it’s a major moment for NASCAR, and it’s a cool moment,” Montoya said after the win. “I don’t think there’s any other racing you can start this far back and actually have a chance of winning.”

Montoya ended his 2007 rookie season with one win, three Top-5 and six Top-10 finishes, putting him 20th in the final series driver standings in 2007. This season hasn’t gone quite as he had planned only with one Top 5 (Talladega). He currently is 22nd in the standings and has had to deal with two crew chief changes thus far. The team started the season with Donnie Wingo, then Jimmy Elledge, before settling with Pattie.
 
This weekend though, look for Montoya to be up front. NASCAR Pre-Race Loop Data Statistics for Infineon Raceway has Montoya near the top

of several key categories: Driver Rating (115.3) is ranked first in the series, Average Running Position (10.588). “Last year I felt a ton of pressure heading into Infineon because everyone expected to me to run well and win because of my background,” Montoya said. “This year I don’t feel any pressure. Our goal is to run well, and if we have a shot at the win obviously we are going to take it.”

 

  
TICKETS ARE ON SALE NOW for Ford Championship Weekend 2008. Set for Nov. 14-16 on Homestead-Miami Speedway's 1.5-mile oval, the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series all will crown champions under the lights. One of the fastest-selling events anywhere in sports, tickets for NASCAR’s series-crowning championship weekend will be gone quickly.
 
To secure tickets for the NASCAR finale annual sell-out, please call (866) 409-RACE or visit www.HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com.
contributing: [NASCAR Media]
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