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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Montoya on chasing the Chase, and ‘tacky’ Graceland

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Juan Pablo Montoya, a star in both Indycar and Formula 1 racing prior to his arrival in the NASCAR scene a couple years ago, has always been known as a hard-charging driver who does whatever it takes to get to the front each week..

But NASCAR’s playoff system has created a whole new mindset for some drivers as the regular season comes to an end in NASCAR in a few weeks, and the Chase looms. Montoya is less than 200 points away from falling out of the Chase, so he knows he must be careful. This has led him to employ a more conservative, points-racing approach.

“If finishing 10th at Atlanta would mean I make the chase, we’ll do everything in our power to finish 10th or 8th,” Montoya said this weekend at Michigan International Speedway. “We are not going to do anything stupid and finish 25th and go Richmond and maybe blow up a motor and miss the Chase.”

On a lighter note, Montoya talked about his recent trip to the home of Elvis, Graceland, and had an interesting comment on the place.

“It was a really, really tacky house, but it was cool. It was. I know for the time, where he was and everything, that was cool but … like the yellow room and this and that, it was different.”

Despite his claim that the 42 car “really sucks” at Michigan, Montoya was able to qualify for the third position today, so maybe he will be able to shed that lackluster history.

Who’s up, down in 2009?
My vote for most-improved driver of the year: Kurt Busch. He is fourth in points, and was 18th last year at this point of the season. Marcos Ambrose and Juan Pablo Montoya also deserve credit for stepping up their game.

On the flip side, my biggest disappointments of the year are: Kevin Harvick, David Ragan and, of course, Dale Earnhardt Jr. All three should be doing so much better and half to get back on track in 2010. This rest of this season is merely preparation for next year for them.

Speaking of Jr., this is start #350
I still remember when it was announced in 1998 that Dale Jr. would be running a handful of races in 1999 in the Cup series, and I’m amazed at how quickly time flies, as this is his 350th career start. In that time he has finished as high as third in points. That is not the case this year, when he is supposed to be in the best equipment at Hendrick Motorsports, but sits 25th in points, behind such drivers as A.J. Allmendinger and Casey Mears.

After his comments this weekend about the COT needing some work and NASCAR needing to put on better shows, I suggest he stop trying to lobby for changes that aren’t going to happen. Mike Helton even pulled a rare move by NASCAR and gave Jr. a little dig – saying the reason Jr. is complaining is because he’s 25th in the points and frustrated. Ouch!

The cure for all this – go out and win, Jr. Go out today and win the race, preferably not on fuel mileage, then go out and win a couple more times this season, and everyone in Jr. Nation can breathe a sigh of relief that you are still capable of competing for and taking home wins in the Cup series.

If you’re winning, you won’t find much need to complain.


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