Rain Ended Montoya's Bid for a Strong Finish, Castroneves has a Rough Night in Richmond
Joey Logano becomes the youngest winner in NASCAR history following rain-shortened event at Loudon (photo: Jerry Markland, Getty Images for NASCAR)
After clawing his way into the Top 12 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship standings at Infineon Raceway, Juan Pablo Montoya needed another fervent race weekend at New Hampshire to solidify his place in the Chase with just 10 races left in NASCAR’s “regular season.” The weekend did not start off very well for the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team because the No. 42 Chevrolet was one of the slowest cars at the track on Friday.
Miami resident Juan Pablo Montoya entered the race at New Hampshire in 12th-place just 40 points behind 10th-place driver Matt Kenseth. Montoya and his team recovered Saturday to record Top 10 practice times in each of Saturday’s practice sessions. Rain washed away qualifying so Montoya rolled off in the 12th position. Montoya showed the same patience that has characterized his ascent into contention for the Championship which will be decided at Homestead-Miami Speedway during Ford Championship Weekend Nov. 20-22. Running mid-pack during the early going, Montoya gambled on pit strategy and he found himself leading by Lap 86.
Defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson and the rest of NASCAR’s best had plans of their own. Jimmie Johnson shot out to the lead followed closely by teammate Jeff Gordon. In the last eight races at New Hampshire, there have been eight different winners. Jeff Gordon, who has never won at Homestead-Miami Speedway, started second to his teammate Johnson as qualifying was rained out. The Hendrick duo dominated the race until the race was red-flagged due to a multi-car incident on the frontstretch. The mid-race melee eliminated many formidable teams and drivers, which changed the complexion of the event.
“We feel like this is a very important race, very important track,” said Gordon, who entered the race second in the Sprint Cup points standings. “We are in a position in the points to be a little more risky in our setup, in our pit strategy. But the most important thing is getting the car really dialed in this weekend so that when we come back for the Chase, that we start it off right.”
Mother Nature instead of by the drivers decided the race. When the rains came, NASCAR rookie Joey Logano joined Zephyrhills resident David Reutimann as the first drivers to win their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup victories during a rain-shortened event. The race was called with 28 laps to go and Logano was declared the winner. Logano becomes the youngest winner in NASCAR history.
“New Hampshire is obviously a big weekend for us. It’s a little bit of a homecoming for me,” said Logano in a post-race interview. “Loudon is the only race in the New England area and it’s cool to get a win up here because they have great fans here that have supported me for a long time.”
All of the drivers wanted to have a good showing, as this track will also be the site of the first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup in September. The Chase will conclude at Homestead-Miami Speedway during Ford Championship Weekend Nov.20-22. Montoya rallied to finish where he started – 12th-place.
Coral Gables Resident Castroneves Looked to Make Up Ground on IndyCar Series Leaders at Richmond International Raceway
South Florida’s Helio Castroneves came to Richmond in fourth place in the IndyCar Series Championship standings. At this stage of the season every point counts as the march towards the Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway continues. Castroneves trailed his Team Penske Racing teammate and series leader, Ryan Briscoe, by 29 points before Saturday night’s race. Target Chip Ganassi Racing drew first blood at Richmond by snaring the first two starting spots for the 300-lap battle in Virginia.
Last week’s winner, Dario Franchitti, continued his impressive return to the IndyCar Series by winning the pole position over Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon. In 2007, Franchitti started from the pole and led every lap in winning the race before going on to win the IndyCar Series season title.
Defending Richmond race winner and Key Biscayne resident, Tony Kanaan, had a daunting task ahead in order to become a repeat winner at Richmond. 2008 Richmond winner Kanaan struggled in practice and qualifying that resulted in a 17th-place starting position. Miami resident and IndyCar Series rookie, Raphael Matos, recorded his best qualifying result on an oval this season with a sixth-place start for Luczo Dragon Racing. Matos soldiered to an eight-place finish after struggling to pass back markers. Kanaan salvaged a sixth-place finish as all four Andretti Green Racing drivers finished in the Top 10.
Scott Dixon became the first three-time IndyCar Series race winner in 2009, and teammate Dario Franchitti moved into the series points lead - one point ahead of Dixon - as the Target Chip Ganassi Racing duo dominated Saturday night's race at Richmond International Raceway.
Starting from the pole, Franchitti led much of the first half of the 300-lap contest, but was caught by the caution flag as he was entering the pits on Lap 137. Out of fuel, he was forced to stop, and then had to pit again a few laps later for a complete pit stop. As a result, teammate Dixon moved into the lead on Lap 140 and would remain at the point for the rest of the race. Dixon's 19th career win ties him with former series champion Sam Hornish Jr. for most career IndyCar Series victories.
After a season filled with bad luck and misfortune, another Miami resident, E.J. Viso, had his first finish of 2009. Viso was running as high as seventh until falling down the order in the last round of pit stops. Still, his 12th-place result was his first finish of the season.
Meanwhile, after a strong start to 2009, Team Penske had its worst results of the year, with both Ryan Briscoe and Coral Gables resident Helio Castroneves crashing out of the contest, without injury. Briscoe fell out on Lap 26 and Castroneves on Lap 245, as both unsuccessfully battled handling problems. As a result, Briscoe fell from first to third in the drivers' championship, while Castroneves remains fourth.