NASCAR: Round 22 – Watkins Glen – Aug 8

Juan Montoya dominated the NASCAR outing on the historic Watkins Glen road course, while his main competition – Marcos Ambrose – consistently struggled with restarts and finally saw his handling fade away in the vital closing laps, allowing the Colombian to return to victory lane for the first time in 113 races since his début win at Sonoma in June 2007.

Carl Edwards led the field to the first green but soon came under pressure from Montoya’s Ganassi team mate Jamie McMurray, who claimed the lead on lap 2 as Edwards started to struggled and Montoya took up residence in second. Four laps later, and Montoya moved up to the lead and proceeded to check out from the competition – he would prove hard to displace for the rest of the afternoon.

But a threat to Montoya’s dominance was marching up the running order, with street course specialist Marcos Ambrose – having started 11th – up to fourth by lap 15. He’d taken second spot just as pit stops started to cycle through under yellow, and when a full course caution came out on lap 29 for an off-track excursion by PJ Jones, it meant that that huge gap Montoya had been working on was wiped out. Marcos now had his chance to fight for the lead.

Unfortunately, first he had to reclaim second spot after Carl Edwards got a great restart on lap 30 and displaced Marcos – the first of several restarts today that would be less than ideal for Ambrose, in what proved to be his Achilles Heel. But there was no doubt that Ambrose had incredible speed, and once the race properly underway he had no trouble snatching second straight back again and then latching on to the back of Montoya, in eight laps of the closest and most entertaining racing that the afternoon had to offer: finally, on lap 40, he pulled off the pass diving to the inside on turn 1 and he was in front for the first time today.

A clutch of incidents shortly afterwards – Bobby Labonte getting tapped into a spin and stalling, Brad Keselowski spinning all my himself and giving a guardrail a head-on love tap with no damage incurred, and Scott Speed grinding to a halt out on track with mechanical problems after having endured a lengthy stay in the pits already – brought out the second caution of the day.

It proved to be a dramatic restart: once again, not the greatest of moments for Ambrose, as he over-revved the engine going into turn 1, hit the rev limited and suffered wheel hop that allowed Montoya to pass him. But AJ Allmendinger has designs on passing them both by taking a risky outside line, only to find Montoya having none of it and Kurt Busch opportunistically following him through to snatch second spot. That left Ambrose back in fourth place and having to work hard for the next four laps to dispatch both Kurt and AJ before he could once again turn his attention to challenging for the lead – but by then, Montoya had a handy 2s advantage in front. Ambrose was definite faster, and started reeling Montoya in, but he was making it hard work for himself – and rather too easy for Montoya.

The cars were halfway through their second and final round of pit stops under green when a trailing-arm mount broke from Clint Bowyer’s car, resulting in a third caution for debris and Bowyer exiting to the garage for lengthy repairs that put him three laps off the pace. The restart saw Montoya and Ambrose head up the field with Kurt Busch, AJ Allmendinger, Jamie McMurray and Carl Edwards rounding out the top six; this time Ambrose got a reasonable getaway – not good enough to take the lead from Montoya but enough to ward off any threats to second – but ironically the green flag stint was shortlived as the track went to yellow again on lap 66 for a spin by Boris Said, after contact with Tony Stewart, that saw a lot of damage to the rear of the #83.

The next restart on lap 70 was even more shortlived, and it wasn’t until lap 75 that the race really got underway again properly. This time Ambrose’s restart wasn’t good enough and he dropped back to third behind Kurt, something he was quickly able to correct next time around but which still provided Montoya with an invaluable opportunity to start pulling out a formidable lead: by lap 84 he was over 4s ahead of Ambrose, and the expected fightback and challenge just wasn’t materialising from the Aussie. Indeed, the handling seemed to be worsening with every passing lap, and at the start of the final lap of the race it was so bad that Kurt Busch was able to breeze past him going into turn , and this time Ambrose didn’t have the time or the handling to attempt a fight back: third would be the best he could do.

It was a great result for Montoya, putting an end to what had been an increasingly tense atmosphere within the team in recent weeks as the relationship between Montoya and pit chief Brian Pattie had appeared to be disintegrating: no such divisions after winning at Watkins Glen, however: “The last few weeks have been really frustrating for the whole team because we’ve been so close to victory and it seemed to keep slipping away.” said Montoya. “I feel more relieved than happy right now. It’s been a really hard road in a way. It’s been a lot of fun; it’s been frustrating. To finally get that first win for Brian, I think it’s good. I think we can really focus now on just getting the job done.

“As competitive as I am, he’s as competitive with the race car,” said Montoya about his crew chief. “We have to learn how to make better judgement, myself make better calls when I’m driving, help them make better calls. I think we’re really working together and understanding what needs to be done to win those races.”

It was not a good day for Jimmie Johnson, who lost ground early on when he had to make an extra early pit top on lap 16 for new tyres, fearing a slow puncture. Then on lap 70 Johnson had lost the rear of the #48 at the restart and spun into the wall – trailing such a lot of tyre smoke that Denny Hamlin was unsighted behind him and arrived at the scene of the accident to hit the stationary Johnson hard. Hamlin’s front was a wreck, but Johnson was able to return to the fray and run to the end albeit well down the running order.

Kyle Busch was another driver to suffer problems: the the #18’s case they began even before the start when he was forced to take to the pits for work on his left rear suspension that saw him start from the rear of the field. That he plugged away and ended up in the top ten says much about Kyle, and should cement his place in the Chase.

But today was really all about Montoya: his win here at Watkins Glen gave Team Ganassi a hat-trick for the weekend, with Dario Franchitti winning in IndyCar at mid-Ohio and Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas triumphant in the Rolex Grand-Am at the Glen the previous day. But ore than that, it put the likeable Colombian back in victory lane after a far-too-long absence. Maybe it will even be the start of a winning streak – sadly, though, it’s come too late in the day to gain Montoya a place in the Chase.

Race results

	 	 	 	 	 	 	
POS ST  CAR  DRIVER             PTS/BNS LAPS  
1   3   42   Juan Montoya       195/10  90    
2   5   2    Kurt Busch         170/0   90    
3   11  47   Marcos Ambrose     170/5   90    
4   4   43   A.J. Allmendinger  160/0   90    
5   1   99   Carl Edwards       155/0   90    
6   2   1    Jamie McMurray     155/5   90    
7   6   14   Tony Stewart       146/0   90    
8   10  18   Kyle Busch         142/0   90    
9   22  31   Jeff Burton        138/0   90    
10  16  24   Jeff Gordon        134/0   90    
11  20  29   Kevin Harvick      130/0   90    
12  19  39   Ryan Newman        132/5   90    
13  31  17   Matt Kenseth       124/0   90    
14  12  77   Sam Hornish Jr.    121/0   90    
15  25  56   Martin Truex Jr.   118/0   90    
16  23  98   Paul Menard        115/0   90    
17  36  9    Kasey Kahne        112/0   90    
18  33  71   Andy Lally         109/0   90    
19  24  5    Mark Martin        111/5   90    
20  32  12   Brad Keselowski    103/0   90    
21  17  26   Patrick Carpentier 100/0   90    
22  28  13   Max Papis          97/0    90    
23  30  00   David Reutimann    94/0    90    
24  7   16   Greg Biffle        91/0    90    
25  35  6    David Ragan        88/0    90    
26  40  88   Dale Earnhardt Jr. 85/0    90    
27  43  38   David Gilliland    82/0    90    
28  9   48   Jimmie Johnson     79/0    90    
29  38  19   Elliott Sadler     76/0    90    
30  41  37   Travis Kvapil      73/0    90    
31  42  34   Kevin Conway *     70/0    90    
32  34  33   Clint Bowyer       67/0    89    
33  18  20   Joey Logano        64/0    88    
34  27  78   Regan Smith        61/0    84  Suspension
35  29  09   Bobby Labonte      58/0    84  Running
36  15  7    Robby Gordon       55/0    72  Engine
37  14  11   Denny Hamlin       52/0    70  Accident
38  13  83   Boris Said         49/0    65  Accident
39  37  87   Joe Nemechek       46/0    54  Transmission
40  21  36   Ron Fellows        43/0    46  Susp.
41  39  207  P.J. Jones         40/0    36  Fuel Pump
42  26  55   Michael McDowell   37/0    35  Electrical
43  8   82   Scott Speed        34/0    28  Engine
* Denotes Rookie 

Sprint Cup standings after round 22

 	 	 	 	 	 	 	 	 	
POS +/- DRIVER                PTS   BEHIND  ST  P  W  T5 T10
1   --  Kevin Harvick         3210  Leader  22  0  2  10 15 
2   --  Jeff Gordon           3025  -185    22  0  0  10 13 
3   +2  Jeff Burton           2895  -315    22  0  0  4  12 
4   +3  Kurt Busch            2892  -318    22  2  2  8  13 
5   -1  Jimmie Johnson        2882  -328    22  0  5  8  12 
6   -3  Denny Hamlin          2872  -338    22  0  5  8  9  
7   -1  Kyle Busch            2866  -344    22  2  2  5  11 
8   --  Tony Stewart          2865  -345    22  2  0  6  12 
9   +1  Carl Edwards          2821  -389    22  1  0  4  11 
10  -1  Matt Kenseth          2806  -404    22  0  0  4  8  
11  --  Greg Biffle           2743  -467    22  0  1  4  12 
12  +1  Mark Martin           2641  -569    22  1  0  5  7  
======= CHASE FOR THE Sprint CUP - CURRENT CONTENDERS ======
13  -1  Clint Bowyer          2631  -579    22  0  0  3  11 
14  +1  Ryan Newman           2558  -652    22  1  1  2  6  
15  +2  Jamie McMurray        2547  -663    22  3  2  6  8  
16  -2  Dale Earnhardt Jr.    2520  -690    22  1  0  2  6  
17  -1  Kasey Kahne           2508  -702    22  1  0  5  7  
18  --  David Reutimann       2475  -735    22  0  1  4  4  
19  +2  Juan Montoya          2436  -774    22  2  1  5  9  
20  --  Martin Truex Jr.      2401  -809    22  1  0  1  5  
21  -2  Joey Logano           2393  -817    22  1  0  2  8  
22  --  A.J. Allmendinger     2387  -823    22  1  0  1  4  
23  --  Paul Menard           2341  -869    22  0  0  1  3  
24  --  David Ragan           2148  -1062   22  0  0  0  1  
25  --  Brad Keselowski       2142  -1068   22  0  0  0  0  
26  +2  Marcos Ambrose        2055  -1155   22  0  0  1  3  
27  -1  Scott Speed           2045  -1165   22  0  0  0  2  
28  -1  Sam Hornish Jr.       2024  -1186   22  0  0  0  0  
29  --  Elliott Sadler        1936  -1274   22  0  0  0  0  
30  --  Regan Smith           1824  -1386   22  0  0  0  0  
31  --  Bobby Labonte         1674  -1536   22  0  0  0  0  
32  --  Travis Kvapil         1543  -1667   21  0  0  0  0  
33  --  Robby Gordon          1493  -1717   19  0  0  1  1  
34  --  Kevin Conway*         1439  -1771   21  0  0  0  0  
35  --  David Gilliland       1415  -1795   18  0  0  0  0  
36  --  Brian Vickers         1158  -2052   11  0  0  0  3  
37  --  Joe Nemechek          900   -2310   21  0  0  0  0  
38  +2  Max Papis             867   -2343   17  0  0  0  0  
39  -1  David Stremme         825   -2385   11  0  0  0  0  
40  -1  Mike Bliss            799   -2411   11  0  0  0  2  
41  --  Dave Blaney           699   -2511   17  0  0  0  0  
42  --  Casey Mears           654   -2556   9   0  0  0  0  
43  --  Bill Elliott          609   -2601   7   0  0  0  0  
44  +2  Michael McDowell      579   -2631   15  0  0  0  0  
45  -1  Reed Sorenson         560   -2650   8   0  0  0  1  
46  -1  J.J. Yeley            545   -2665   9   0  0  0  0  
47  --  Boris Said            448   -2762   6   0  0  0  1  
48  --  Todd Bodine           273   -2937   6   0  0  0  0  
49  --  Robert Richardson Jr. 249   -2961   3   0  0  0  0  
50  --  Michael Waltrip       200   -3010   3   0  0  0  0  
Advertisements



    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

    Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: