“Three to get ready”: Momentum to Miami builds for Nov. 22 NASCAR Championship

Montoya rolls to third at Martinsville

Just past Chase’s halfway-to-Homestead-Miami mark, Martin holds 2nd spot while Montoya jumps to 5th (photo courtesy: Streeter Lecka, Getty Images Sport)

Mark Martin has started an astounding 753 races in his NASCAR racing career. He has competed when he's sick, injured, healthy, happy and sad, and he's raced during five different presidential administrations. In other words, he’s been doing this for a very, very long time under varying conditions—all of which lends to the success he’s had in the 2009 Chase. That continued with another Top 10 finish in Chase Race 6 at Martinsville, the shortest track on the Sprint Cup Series circuit (.525 miles).

Juan Pablo Montoya, on the other hand, is in just Year No. 3 of his NASCAR career after achieving international success in the open-wheel world. And with yet another Top 5 Chase finish at Martinsville, the Colombian native and South Florida resident has shown remarkable fortitude in his bid to race for the Championship on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 22.

With just three Chase “playoff” races remaining before a Champion is crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22, 50-year-old fan favorite Martin sits second in the standings, while Montoya jumped a spot to No. 5 in the points. Both are looking to derail three-time reigning Champion Jimmie Johnson in his bid for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Sprint Cup Championship in Miami on Nov. 22. Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag at Martinsville for he first-ever win in the Chase.

“We got everything that we could,” said eighth-place finisher Martin, who has finished runner-up in the NASCAR Championship points standings more times (four) than any other driver in Sprint Cup history. “It just wasn’t quite enough but it was a super job, everybody gave it all, We need to pick it up. You know, eighths, sevenths—that won’t get it right now. But you know what: We gave it everything we had.”

With his third-place finish in Chase Race 6, Montoya notched his fifth Top 5 finish in six Chase races. “Everybody on this Target car keeps doing a great job and its fun to watch,” the driver of the No. 42 said post-race. “Here is a place you don't want to wreck anybody because payback is really bad here, but people have got to respect you. We did what we had to and everybody on this Target team keeps doing an amazing job every week…It's great.”

Montoya continued to cement his reputation as a hard-nosed racer and tangled a little with fifth-place finisher Jeff Gordon, to no surprise of the four-time Sprint Cup Champion: "He's an aggressive driver,” Gordon said of Montoya. “We've seen it from him before. I thought I did something to make him mad because I didn't understand why he was just driving into me for no reason. But hey, that is Martinsville. That's kind of the way he drives."

“…We had a great battle for third and we raced clean at the end, and that's all that really matters. I hope it's not something that transfers over…."

If vengeance is in the plans, the scene will be the anything-can-happen Talladega, as the pursuers of the Sprint Cup Series Championship head to Alabama and the Speedway NASCAR’s experts dub the one most likely to deliver a shake-up in the points prior to the Nov. 22 Sprint Cup Championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“There's still some racing left, and a lot of things can change at Talladega,” said Martin. “We're going to go there and race like there ain't no way we can wreck.”

Said Johnson: “It's too early to really worry about points and worry about where the other guys are at. We still have four races left and Talladega next week. You can't hide at that race track. You're in harms way at all times. “

We’re just past the halfway point to Homestead-Miami Speedway, as only three races remain until NASCAR’s 2009 Sprint Cup Champion is crowned in Miami. 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 (Saturday) 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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