Home-Track Hopes: South Florida’s Montoya Returns to Form

Ryan Newman Wins at Phoenix

Newman got the jump on a late-race restart to score the victory in a green-white-checkered finish, holding off a charging Jeff Gordon to claim his 14th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win (photo courtesy: Tom Pennington, Getty Images Sport)

South Florida’s Juan Pablo Montoya—a 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase contender and former IndyCar Champion—has been around racing long enough to know that some form of luck often plays a role in running well at the track.

After leading 104 laps at Phoenix Saturday night, Montoya finished fifth in a race won by Ryan Newman in a bizarre finish. The driver of the No. 42 entered Race 7 of 36 in 2010 ranked 25th in the point standings and jumped four spots in the standings for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Championship, to be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 21.  For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

“We needed this; we really needed this,” Montoya said after the Top 5. “I think everybody knows we can do it. I like this; it's very important. Going to the next couple of races, if we can get a couple more Top 5s we'll be looking pretty good for the Chase."

Entering the race, Montoya was not concerned about his season’s start, in which he has finished on the lead lap in only two of six events, despite leading in four races.

“It [stinks] because we should be Top 5 in points if we would have finished every race,” Montoya said prior to practice at Phoenix. “We are, I don’t know, 20-something [in points]; I don’t even know where we are in points, to be honest. I don’t even look.”

At Phoenix, Newman got the jump on a late-race restart to score the victory in a green-white-checkered finish, holding off a charging Jeff Gordon to claim his 14th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win. Newman scored the first victory of the season for team owner and two-time Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart. In the process, he jumped six places in the standings to 16th in the points race for the Sprint Cup Championship, which will crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 21. For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

“In those green-white-checkereds, it's all about luck and about timing,” said Montoya, who started seventh. “We thought we did the right thing, and we still got a Top 5 out of it. So I was very happy.”

Montoya and teammate Jamie McMurray both appeared to have had plenty of speed in the desert.

“I think both cars have the potential still to be in the Chase,” said Montoya. “It is still very early. I think last year it would have been harder because we were finishing like 10th or 12th every week.”

There are 19 more races to get into NASCAR’s elite Top 12, the pool from which a Champion will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 21. Montoya made the Chase last year not by dominating races but by being consistent and stringing together several solid finishes.

"We had a great car,” Montoya reiterated post-Phoenix. “We were a little faster with the sun out, but we were a Top 5 all day; even a Top 3 or 2. But we kind of got lost there a little bit at the end.”

Montoya continues his pursuit of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series Championship—to be crowned Nov. 21 on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway—on Sunday, April 18, at Texas. The race will be broadcast on FOX at 3 PM.

All three of NASCAR’s premier racing series—the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series—again will crown Champions during Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21). For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.

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