Montoya and Martin Miami-Bound? With One Race to Go Before “Playoffs” Set, the Top 12 Reshuffles
Montoya rolled to a third-place finish at Atlanta to improve his Championship points standings wth one race to go before the Chase (photo courtesy: Todd Warshaw, Getty Images Sport)
Just one race remains before the Chase contenders’ field is set for Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Nov. 20-22. At Race 25 (of 36) in Atlanta, Kasey Kahne snatched a victory and to virtually assured himself a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which will be crowned Nov. 22 in Miami, with great seats available right now.
Miami resident Juan Pablo Montoya bolstered his own Chase resume with a strong third-place finish at Atlanta to improve to eighth in the Championship standings, 88 points ahead of 13th-place Brian Vickers. Mark Martin remained 10th in the standings – who would be the No. 1 seed if the Chase started today based on his four victories this season – widened his advantage over 13th place to 69 points.
Montoya, the former IndyCar champion and seven-time Formula One race-winner, is looking to make history as the first non-American born driver ever to qualify for the Chase, in just his third year on the NASCAR circuit. As soon as he climbed from his car at Atlanta, he searched out a computer to see where he was in the standings heading to Race 26 at Richmond—the last race before the Chase.
"It just makes life easier," Montoya said of gaining a spot in the Top 12 drivers who qualify for NASCAR’s “playoffs. “In the position we are in right now, it's just about going there—we have a great car, just be smart and get a Top 10."
There was no change among the Top 12 drivers, though there was some shuffling in their order. Stewart still leads, followed by Gordon, Johnson, Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Kahne, Kurt Busch, Montoya, Ryan Newman, Martin, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth. Brian Vickers will go to Richmond 20 points behind Kenseth, with Kyle Busch 37 points out of a return to the Chase—and a chance to race for the Championship to be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov 22.
"I think it's great," Montoya said post-race, having been a victim of tire problems the previous two races at Michigan and Bristol. "I think everyone on the team did an amazing job. Last race in Bristol, I thought we had a chance of winning. We had a flat tire. It cost us a lot in points.”
"Two races with flat tires...lost a bunch of points, it's always kind of worrying. Every [double-file] restart you go, 'Please, nobody slide into me.' Things like that. It was nice to see that Kasey and Kevin [Harvick] and myself were the three fastest cars by a mile. Once you got in line, after the first corner, you knew you were fine."
Denny Hamlin’s sixth-place showing allowed him to become the fourth driver to clinch a spot in the Chase, joining Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and three-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson.
Headed to Richmond Saturday night, just four drivers having clinched a spot in the Chase. After those four, the next 10 drivers in the points standings are separated by a mere 122 points. So one race remains before the Chase for the Sprint Cup Trophy begins, with the Champion to be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22. And the BEST seats are available NOW for 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.