Montoya may reach two NASCAR “firsts”

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Indianapolis is the site of this weekend’s Sprint Cup race, NASCAR’s next stop en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Indy is also the scene of one of Juan Pablo Montoya’s most memorable career highlights, as he captured the Indy 500 trophy as an open-wheel rookie in 2000. But having made the switch to NASCAR, Montoya is eyeing another racing milestone en route to Miami: A victory this weekend would make Montoya the only driver in history to win both the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400.

And if the Chase for the Championship—to be decided at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 22—was to start today, Montoya’s No. 9 position in the Sprint Cup standings would qualify him as the first non-U.S. born driver ever to qualify for the Chase to the Championship.

Indeed, he has been a model of consistency this year, with Top 10 finishes in nearly half of his races. It’s a new strategy for the mercurial Montoya.

"You've got to be smart about what you do," the driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet said after a recent sixth-place finish at Sonoma. "I felt we had a decent car, but I'd rather finish sixth than 25th being spun by somebody.”

Driving for the merged Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Montoya in the Chase also would mark the first time a Chip Ganassi driver ever has qualified for the 10-race melee that culminates with the Championship at Homestead-Miami.

"It's all about making the Chase," said Montoya. “And we're doing everything in our power—from the team, to myself, to the crew chief making the calls and being smart

Not that he’s content simply to finish Top 12—Montoya knows that the glory (and big checks) go to the winner crowned at his “home track” after the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 22. So he isn’t settling for being an also-ran in the assembly of Chase contenders.

“You see where we came from last year to where we are right now,” he recently told NASCAR.com. “When you run third, fourth, fifth … you're getting there. You are getting close. Then you just have to go from there to winning. We keep working, keep trying to come up with new ideas, new things.”

Indeed, a NASCAR Championship is the only major prize that has eluded team co-owner Chip Ganassi, who has earned titles in the IndyCar Series and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series  (also to be crowned at THE Championship Tracksm on Oct. 9-10).

The best seats are available NOW for the Nov. 20-22 Ford Championship Weekend, featuring the series-crowning Championship finales of all three of NASCAR’s top circuits: the Camping World Truck Series (Friday), Nationwide Series (Nov. 21) and Sprint Cup Series (Sunday). For Friday night’s Truck Championship, all kids 12 and under will be admitted FREE; on Saturday for the Nationwide Championship, all kids 12 and under are just $15; and for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Championship, adult tickets start at just $55. Click here to view great seats available for each race.

 

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