NASCAR history: Miami’s Juan Pablo Montoya makes the Chase

Montoya Makes History

Miami's Montoya raced his way into the Chase and into NASCAR history at Richmond (photo courtesy: Chris Graythen, Getty Images Sport)

One race to make NASCAR’s Chase “playoffs.” One race to qualify for a run for the 2009 Sprint Cup Championship, to be crowned Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway during Ford Championship Weekend. And Juan Pablo Montoya did it.

The Miami resident and Colombian native qualified for the Chase by garnering a Top 12 spot in points standings after 26 races of the 36-race campaign. He is the first non-U.S. born driver ever to qualify for the Chase.

“It’s good—we’re in!” Montoya said track-side Saturday night when his Chase qualification was official. “I think just proving everybody wrong feels really good, to tell you the truth. It was a three-year plan [after making the switch to NASCAR]…and we made the Chase. This is bigger than winning a race.”
 
“This is an unbelievable achievement for Juan Pablo, especially when you consider how many drivers have raced in NASCAR’s long and storied history,” said Homestead-Miami Speedway President Curtis Gray. “Juan Pablo mastered open-wheel racing—as an IndyCar Champion and Formula One winner—and now he will fight for stock car’s most prestigious honor, the Sprint Cup, at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 22.”

An elite group will compete in the 10-race shootout that culminates with the Sprint Cup Champion being crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22. Fan favorite Mark Martin—at age 50, the oldest driver ever to qualify for the Chase—enters the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, based on his series-leading four victories.

“Anybody that’s in the Chase can win this thing,” Martin said Saturday night. “All they have to do is get on a 10-race roll. I’m telling you, anybody in this Chase can win.” He then added: “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.”

Said Homestead-Miami Speedway President Gray: “Montoya competing for the Sprint Cup title on his ‘home track’ only adds to a phenomenal storyline for NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend. With the likes of Martin, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards all joining Montoya at the top of this mix, the 2009 Chase will be as competitive as any Sprint Cup battle in recent memory.”

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