Road to Miami begins Sunday:Top-seeded Martin Says Look Out for Miami’s Montoya
Joey Logano won his first Sprint Cup race at Loudon earlier this season. Now the Chase for the Sprint Cup beigns at Loudon and Mark Martin is leading the way (photo courtesy: Chris Graythen, Getty Images Sport)
Mark Martin said to "watch out for Montoya and he was right. Miami resident Juan Montoya sped around New Hampshire Motor Speedway in a track-record 28.545 seconds (133.431 mph) to win the pole for Sunday's race at Loudon, the first race in the Chase - which will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22.
Montoya, who clinched his berth in NASCAR's playoffs last Saturday at Richmond, starts the Chase 40 points behind Mark Martin, who qualified 14th in Friday's time trials.
"At the end of practice [earlier Friday], we made a [qualifying] run," said Montoya, who won his second pole of the year and the second of his career. "The lap wasn't that great, and we still ran a .70, so like, 'Wow -- interesting. Can't complain.'"
It’s playoff time, as the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Mark Martin enters the 10-week Chase shootout—which culminates with Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22—as the No. 1 seed. Now that the 12-driver field for NASCAR’s Chase is set, the speculation has begun as to who will be in contention for the Sprint Cup Trophy when it’s crowned in South Florida Nov. 22.
Fifty-year-old fan favorite Martin locked up his Chase berth with a fourth-place finish at Richmond and finds himself atop the Championship standings based on his series-leading four victories through the first 26 races of the “regular season.”
"So now, we go racing," Martin said regarding his pursuit of his first Sprint Cup Championship, to be crowned Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "Pressure is off though; pressure is off. It won't build back up until late—maybe four [races] to go [to Miami]."
The 10 remaining races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup season offer a little of everything in terms of racetrack layout before culminating at the 1.5-mile, 18-to-20 degree variable-banked Homestead-Miami Speedway—a track that one Chase driver favors as his “home track….”
Miami resident Juan Pablo Montoya—the first international driver ever to qualify for NASCAR’s Chase playoffs—looks to establish himself early in the 10-race shootout for Homestead-Miami Nov. 22. And he did it based on some stellar improvement from a year ago. Consider that through the first 26 races of 2009, he cut both his average starting position and finishing position from 2008 nearly in half. He also put together a mid-summer stretch in which he tallied eight Top 10s in 11 races.
"We did what we had to do to get in the Chase," Montoya said of Team Ganassi. "I think for me being back with Target and Chip, to put them in the Chase is huge. It's nice. It's what we needed."
Montoya’s team has shown consistent strength at the intermediate tracks, of which Homestead-Miami Speedway is one. And since there are five Chase tracks measuring between one and two-and-a-half miles in length, Montoya is a more-than intriguing entry in this 10-race shootout. Just ask that No. 1 seed….
“I’m telling you, anybody in this Chase can win,” Martin said last weekend. Watch out for Juan Montoya. I tell you, the guy’s running good. He’s been points racing, and they may go after it now.”
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