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The Chase for the Cup is in Full Throttle

Last year, starting at Infineon, Montoya ran off a string of nine straight finishes of 12th or better, including a runner-up finish in the August race at Pocono.

True, Montoya is 20th in the standings. Last year at this same juncture, he was 14th and 43 points behind Jeff Burton in 12th. Far more daunting is his current deficit to 12th-place Mark Martin—189 points. And to make the Chase, Montoya will have to pass eight drivers.

In reality, the two road courses alone should enable him to leap-frog past four or five of the drivers ahead of him in the standings. The critical part of the schedule for Montoya starts with the return trip to Michigan, followed by visits to Bristol, Atlanta (arguably his best intermediate track) and Richmond.

If Montoya can get past the two short tracks with decent finishes, the schedule favors a Montoya rally. The rest is up to him.

To make the Chase, Montoya will have to rediscover the same calculating, methodical approach that got him there last year over this same stretch of races. In Sunday's race at Michigan, Montoya and his team couldn't quite find the right balance to race for the win.

“We just couldn't get where we needed to be at the end of the race, so we'll take what we've learned and move on to the next race,” said Montoya, who finished 13th.

The next race is at Infineon, and for Montoya's Chase hopes, that's a good thing.




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Tony Stewart
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Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 12, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 12, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sta-Green 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 12, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Erik Jones, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, celebrates after winning the American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway on July 11, 2014 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota celebrates after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen at the Iowa Speedway on July 11, 2014 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Erik Jones, driver of the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series car (Photo Credit: NASCAR)
Erik Jones, driver of the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series car (Photo Credit: NASCAR)
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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies second Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
 
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualifies fourth Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
 
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies fifth Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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