Montoya’s near-perfect weekend is a message to Chasers
Now that he’s in, watch out for Juan Pablo Montoya.
Having won titles and races in many open wheel formats, from Formula 1 to CART and beyond, it was no secret that he had talent when he came to NASCAR a few years ago.
The question was how quickly he could adapt to stock car racing.
All the evidence is in, and it appears that three years is the magic number.
In the first Chase race weekend, Montoya led the charts in every practice, won the pole, led the most laps and earned a top-5 finish at New Hampshire.
He now sits 4th in points, 55 points behind leader Mark Martin, who won Sunday in New Hampshire for his fifth win of the season.
The question now for Montoya is not if, but when he’ll earn his first oval victory in NASCAR … and how many more he’ll win after that. He dominated the New Hampshire race similarly to how he dominated at Indy earlier this year, and could have won both races.
While the eyes of the NASCAR world are focused on Jimmie Johnson’s quest for four straight titles, Gordon’s drive for 5 titles, Martin’s ageless quest for glory and other bigger stories, Montoya very well could slip under the radar and be a contender to steal this title from the usual suspects.
After his great weekend in Loudon, though, I don’t think the other competitors will be surprised by Montoya anymore.
Already some big points losers
At the start of Sunday’s race, all the Chase drivers were within 40 points of each other. A few hours later, some of them were already in a big hole. The biggest loser is Kasey Kahne, who is already 161 points behind Martin after just 1 race. That’s a lot of points to make up, even over 9 races, especially when you consider how well Martin is likely to run most weeks. I’m not saying he’s dead, but Kahne had a very rough road ahead if he hopes to contend.
Not as bad, but still in some early trouble, are Carl Edwards at 113 points back, and Jeff Gordon at 102 points back. All three of these drivers need to start making up ground as soon as possible if they hope to fight for the crown.