Montoya gets first NASCAR win

Updated: 28 June 2007 15:18 IST

Juan Pablo Montoya demonstrated his road racing prowess again by stretching his final fuel load to the limit and grabbing his first NASCAR Nextel Cup win.

Montoya gets first NASCAR win

Sonoma:

Juan Pablo Montoya demonstrated his road racing prowess again by stretching his final fuel load to the limit and grabbing his first NASCAR Nextel Cup win at Infineon Raceway.

Montoya, who qualified a disappointing 32nd in the 43-car field for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, was the first driver to win on the Northern California road circuit starting further back than 13th.

The Colombian driver, who jumped from Formula One to the American stock car circuit late last season, got his first Cup win in his 17th start and gave team owner Chip Ganassi his first win in NASCAR's top series since Jamie McMurray won in October 2002.

"It's huge," Montoya said. "I would say right now it's the biggest thing I've done. In open-wheel, that's what I was meant to be winning in. In stock cars, I wasn't.

"To get our first win in our first year is huge. We know we're a little bit behind on some of the ovals, but I think this is a big boost for everybody working in the shop."

Montoya is the third foreign-born driver to win in NASCAR's top series.

He joined Italian-born Mario Andretti, who won the 1967 Daytona 500, and Earl Ross of Canada, who won at Martinsville in 1974.

Montoya also joins Andretti and Dan Gurney as the only drivers who have won races in NASCAR, F1 and American open-wheel racing.

NASCAR points leader Jeff Gordon overcame a 41st-place start to finish just behind Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart in seventh with a strategic effort in the first road race for NASCAR's new Car of Tomorrow.

Gordon, who became a father for the first time on Wednesday when his daughter, Ella Sofia, was born, and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, the reigning Cup champion, were both banned from practice and qualifying on Friday.

The two had to start from the rear of the field after NASCAR inspectors found their cars had illegally modified front fenders.

Both drivers and their crew chiefs face more penalties from NASCAR in the next few days, but they ran hard to overcome their handicapped start.

Fuel strategy

Johnson's fuel strategy didn't work as well as Gordon's and, after getting into the top 10 for a while, he finished 17th.

Montoya, whose only other NASCAR victory came earlier this year in a Busch Series race on the road course in Mexico City, passed McMurray, who now drives for Roush Fenway Racing, eight laps from the end and stayed out front of the 110-lap event on the 1.9-mile, 12-turn course.

"I was very surprised by the level of the drivers here on the road course," Montoya said.

"In Mexico, we had a really good car and the top five cars were really strong. But, behind that, it was really easy."

The winner got past McMurray for a moment two laps earlier, driving his Dodge past McMurray's Ford in the slow hairpin near the end of the circuit, but Montoya got too wide and McMurray was able to squeeze back by.

Turn two

The pass that counted came in turn two, with Montoya getting under McMurray's car and passing easily.

Donnie Wingo, his crew chief, said it was mostly Montoya's ability to conserve fuel that won the race.

Wingo thought Montoya would run out about a lap short of the end.

McMurray ran out of fuel at the start of lap 109 and wound up finishing 37th.

Kevin Harvick inherited second place and finished there, followed by his Richard Childress Racing teammates Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer, who all got great fuel mileage.

Harvick, who appeared to be getting the best mileage of them all, thought he might have the race won when McMurray slowed and Montoya was short shifting to save gas late in the race.

Harvick said he wasn't surprised that it was Montoya who he was chasing at the end.

Robby Gordon, who started alongside pole-winner McMurray, also was a victim of failed strategy after leading a race-high 48 laps. He finished 16th.



Topics : Formula 1 Juan Pablo Montoya
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