A date with destiny in Miami? Junior up to 8th in points

The Feud is Heating Up

After a couple of on-track tussles with teammate Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon sits 10th in the point standings heading into Richmond (photo courtesy: Chris Graythen, Getty Images Sport)

On the heels of NASCAR’s second-closest Sprint Cup-race finish in Talladega history, Race 10 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend in Miami (Nov. 19-21) takes place Saturday night at Richmond.

The strategy for NASCAR’s elite: survive.

Winning at Talladega was a sweet victory for Kevin Harvick. The driver of the No. 29 Chevrolet led just two laps all day, but he had a plan and it worked brilliantly in taking the checkered flag over Jamie McMurray (by 0.011) and South Florida’s Juan Pablo Montoya (see sidebar).

Said Harvick: "The whole race played out exactly the way that Gil [Martin, crew chief] and I wanted. We talked about a plan prior to race, and we just stuck to it all day. We were in the position we wanted to be in as we came to the checkered flag, and the pass played out perfectly. It's hard to complain when everything went according to our plan."

…Which isn’t often the case at Richmond, site of Saturday night’s Race 10 of 36 en route to crowning the Sprint Cup Champion in Miami Nov. 21. (For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE.)

One driver who has shown he has what it takes to win at Richmond is Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has tallied three wins among his 10 Top 10s and eight Top 5s in just 21 starts at the track.

“I like Richmond a lot,” said Earnhardt Jr., who ranks eighth in the Sprint Cup points standings, just 21 points behind fifth place-runner Kyle Busch. “It's kind of like Myrtle Beach, where I ran quite a bit in the late models. There's a lot of similarities.

“But I just like short-track racing. We seem to do really good on the short tracks. It's got a lot of different grooves that you can run; you can move around."

Junior’s teammate, Mark Martin, last weekend at Talladega earned his third consecutive Top 10 finish. The longtime fan favorite sits sixth in the Championship standings, just nine points behind Busch and 169 points back of teammate and points-leader Jimmie Johnson.

“The last three weeks have been huge for this race team,” Martin said. “We haven’t always had the best car, but we’ve done the best with what we had and that made the difference. Alan [Gustafson, crew chief] has made all the right calls in all of these races. And to finish in the Top 5 at Talladega, that’s just huge. It felt like a win for me. We’re on a roll, and we just gotta keep it going.”

After a couple of on-track tussles with Hendrick Motorsports-teammate Johnson, Jeff Gordon sits 10th in the point standings. The No. 24 leads 2010 Sprint Cup Series drivers with 45 bonus points tied to number of laps led, and the front line at Richmond is familiar terrain, as Gordon has notched Top 10 finishes in each of his last six races there (including three Top 5s).

“I’ve always liked racing here in Richmond, but we went through some races where we sure didn’t have runs we were hoping for, and it wasn’t much fun,” Gordon said. “We seem to have turned it around though, and I’m really looking forward to this weekend’s race.”

Gordon, Earnhardt Jr., Martin, Johnson, Montoya and the rest of NASCAR’s best will continue the pursuit of the Sprint Cup Series Championship—to be crowned Nov. 21 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—Saturday night at Richmond. The race will be broadcast on FOX and is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.

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

On The Move: South Florida’s Montoya

Montoya at Richmond

“It is a pretty tricky track to get around, and the way things have been going we either finish 30th or in the Top 10.”
--South Florida's Juan Pablo Montoya on his strong finishes when he runs a complete race

With a Top 3 finish at Talladega, Juan Pablo Montoya jumped four spots to 20th in the points standings for the Sprint Cup Series, the Champion of which will be crowned Nov. 21 on Montoya’s “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway. The South Florida resident looks to continue to turn his fortunes for Saturday night’s Race 10 of 36 on the road to Miami.

“We haven't had much luck at Richmond, we just typically don’t run well there,” said Montoya. “So for that reason, not one of my favorites.”

The No. 42 finished 10th in last year's spring race at Richmond, where he has six career starts. His best qualifying effort (sixth) came in the 2008 spring race, and Montoya has completed all 1200 laps of the last race events there. Saturday night, he looks to build on that momentum, as well as that coming from last weekend’s third-place finish at Talladega.

Plagued by on-track accidents this season, Montoya has finished just four races in their entirety, but he has three Top 5s and a Top 10 to show for it.

“It is a pretty tricky track to get around, and the way things have been going we either finish 30th or in the Top 10,” he said. “Let’s hope this turns out to be a good weekend for us and not one of those 30th place finishes. ”

Montoya currently sits 20th in the Sprint Cup standings, 123 points from a Top 12 slot to qualify for the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup, which will be crowned Nov. 21 on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway. For tickets to see South Florida’s NASCAR hometown’er, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.

 

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