Another Top 5 for Montoya en route to NASCAR Championship in Miami
Montoya drove to a third place finish to maintain third in the NASCAR Championship standings. Jimmie Johnson won the race and assumed the points lead (photo courtesy: Chris Graythen, Getty Images Sport)
Homestead-Miami Speedway is THE Championship Track, as it was Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Dario Franchitti taking home the IndyCar Series crown Oct. 10 in Miami. With yet another Top 5 finish Sunday in Chase Race 4, fellow-Ganassi employee—and South Florida resident—Juan Pablo Montoya will look to do the same during NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22.
Battling the sun for a third-place finish in California, Montoya maintained his spot at No. 3 in the Championship Standings, just 58 points out of the lead. He is the only driver to have recorded a Top 5 finish in each of the four Chase races—with just five races remaining before the Sprint Cup Championship is decided at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22. The top five Chase drivers—Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Montoya, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon—are all within 105 points; sixth-place Kurt Busch is only 121 points back of new-leader Johnson.
“It was fun,” said Montoya. “I couldn’t really put the power down when the sun came out, but it’s a good result.”
Johnson—in search of an unprecedented fourth consecutive Sprint Cup Championship in Miami Nov. 22—took the checkered flag at Auto Club Speedway to move into first place in the Championship points standings, with longtime fan-favorite Martin sitting in second place, just 12 points back.
Montoya started the race from the fourth position, as he and his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team opted for the exact same car in which Montoya dominated at Indianapolis earlier this season. Montoya entered Chase Race 4 with the best average starting position (5.7) and running position (4.69) of all Chase contenders. He sat second only to Martin in the best average finishing position, with a sterling 3.7; and his second-best Chase driver rating (122.2) eclipsed even that of three-time Champion Johnson (128.4).
With a fourth-place finish at Chase Race 4 of 10, Martin reluctantly gave up the Championship points standings lead to Hendrick-teammate Johnson.
“These guys are so awesome,” Martin said of his crew. “We were right there, and I cannot be more proud of this No. 5 car.”
Third Hendrick-mate Gordon finished second in California to jump two Chase positions, from seventh to fifth.
“What an awesome car and an awesome day,” said Johnson. “Those cautions at the end made me nervous; I really didn’t know what to do on the restarts. We’ll keep chipping away at it, but obviously there’s a lot of racing left.”
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