by Lynne Huntting
Rookie JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/#42 Dodge won his first NASCAR Nextel Cup race at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway Sunday in Sonoma.
He played cat and mouse with pole-sitter JAMIE McMURRAY/#26 Ford, and his final pass in Turn Two stuck, while McMurray ran out of gas, literally, and finished thirty-seventh.
JPM started thirty-second and was the first Infineon winner to come from further back than thirteenth. It was his first victory in 17 starts. Montoya, 31, hails from Colombia. The last foreign-born Cup victor was Canadian EARL ROSS at Martinsville in 1974.
Montoya said: "I knew it was going to be close, you know. I was told to save as much as you can and if it is, it is. We did a good job. I got my first Nextel Cup win. It's huge."
KEVIN HARVICK/#29 Chevrolet finished second, with JEFF BURTON/#31 Chevrolet third.
It was definitely a fuel mileage race and several front runners gambled and lost on the last lap.
Fourth and fifth were CLINT BOWYER/#07 Chevrolet and GREG BIFFLE/#16 Ford.
JEFF GORDON/#24 Chevrolet finished seventh after starting forty-first. His Hendrick Motorsport team-mate, JIMMIE JOHNSON/#48 Chevrolet, finished seventh after starting forty-second. Gordon still unofficially leads the points, 271 ahead of DENNY HAMLIN/#11 Chevrolet. Johnson is third.
P.J. JONES/#00 Toyota started last, theoretically although DAVID STREMME/#40 Dodge fell to the back at the start for an engine change. Jones finished twelfth, one of the six best Toyota finishes in its Cup debut season.
The weather was hot and breezy.
Gordon had said nothing would bother him this weekend as he was on Cloud Nine. I guess that changed during the race, as he complained to his crew about other drivers including Montoya and RON FELLOWS/#96 Chevrolet.
More to follow...