Juan Pablo Montoya was as calm as a minnow pond after blowing his chance to get a victory in the second-most-important event on the Sprint Cup schedule.
He squeezed himself out of his car after the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard two weeks ago, flicked a few pieces of whatever from his unruffled uniform and said of being penalised for speeding on pit road while heading for near-certain victory, “It is what it is.”
What it was making him so cool, was either the Freon that many say pumps through his veins or the fact he knew his chances of making this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup were affected hardly at all by his failure to win at Indianapolis.
He had, after all, finished eleventh there, dropping only one spot in the standings — to tenth. And he had, after all, had a car that “was stupid fast.”
And he had, after all, a copy of the Sprint Cup schedule posted somewhere in his personal space.
That schedule showed that immediately after the Brickyard was Pocono — a track that acts a lot like Indy, a track where he has run well in the past, and a track where he and his team could once again use the “stupid fast” racecar.
And now, this weekend, the Cup race is at a track that could all but secure his bid for a Chase berth. This week is Watkins Glen. A road course. A road course much like those in Europe where Montoya, on occasion, would give driving lessons to Michael Schumacher in Formula One.
“For us going to a road course is good, especially that one,” Montoya said this week.
At “that one,” Montoya has started two races. He DNF'd in one of those. In the other, he finished fourth.
The fourth-place finish came last year. It came after he started 25th. He led two laps, meaning that at one of the toughest places in the series to pass cars, Montoya passed 24 of them.
Montoya loves the Glen. Even more than Infineon, the road course where he got his one and only Sprint Cup victory.
“In Sonoma,” Montoya said, “our car never runs good. Watkins Glen, we normally got a really good car.”
After Watkins Glen, there will be four more races until the start of the Chase. Montoya will start Sunday's race 169 points ahead of 13th-place Kyle Busch and with four other drivers between him and Busch.
A good finish at The Glen could put a bunch more points between him and 13th and a couple of more drivers. It could put him on the doorstep of his main goal for 2009.
“For us,” Montoya said, “if we can get a top five out of there (at Watkins Glen), I know we can probably win the race. But if we get a top-five out of there, the points for the Chase would be huge.”
by Jim Pedley/Sporting News