Juan Pablo Montoya’s No. 42 Target Chevrolet rolled into Indianapolis Motor Speedway sporting a “Retro” paint scheme and firesuit reminiscent of the one used during his 2000 Indianapolis 500 win. The team hoped the classic gold lightning bolt paint scheme would bring the same result.
The team put on a performance that mirrored that Indy 500 victory by qualifying on the outside pole and dominating most of the race. Montoya quickly took the lead from Mark Martin on lap five and never looked back, leading a race high 116 of the first 124 laps before pitting on lap 125 with a lead of over five seconds. The No. 42 Target Chevy came in for a routine green-flag pit stop but was called for speeding on pit lane and assessed a drive through penalty. The penalty dropped Montoya from the lead to 12th position. After the penalty Montoya was able to gain back one position and took the checkered flag in 11th place.
Despite the disappointing finish to a dominant day, Montoya and his Target team opened the eyes of many around the NASCAR circuit…
Jimmie Johnson – Three-Time Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, Driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet
“That would have been an amazing story. Those guys (the 42) were quick all day long. Really, look at every practice session, qualifying. Not only is that team getting better, but racing with Juan on the track, the guy is really a great talent. I think if you look at guys that have come from the open-wheel world; he’s by far done better than anyone.”
Tony Stewart – Two-Time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, Driver/Owner of the No. 14 Chevrolet
“I firmly believe if that didn’t happen, we were all going to have a hard time with him for sure. He never really was challenged all day. He did a great job. I know what he’s feeling like — he’s got to be sick inside. He had the car; he had the talent to do it.”
Mark Martin – Veteran NASCAR star and Driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet
“I feel really bad for him. If me or my teammates couldn’t have won this race, I was absolutely pulling for Juan. They sure had the car today. But their day will come. It’s tough, but it’s happened to every one of us. Good days are still coming for them.”
Lars Anderson, Sports Illustrated
Barring a series of wrecks or mechanical failures over the next six races, he’ll make the ten-race playoff. And every driver I talked to late on Sunday afternoon expressed the same sentiment: If he gets in, Montoya could be the surprise of the Chase. It’s often hard to discern skill in motorsports, but not with Montoya. He’ll win at least one race before the season is over, perhaps as soon as Aug. 9 at Watkins Glen.
John Roberts, NASCAR Raceday on SPEED
“He (Montoya) is certainly one of the best drivers ever.”
Jimmy Spencer, NASCAR Raceday on SPEED
“Juan Pablo is a very credible driver. We have seen him in Indy Car, we have seen him win in Formula One, and he has won already in Sprint Cup.”
Ray Evernham, NASCAR Now
“Certainly Brian Pattie does a great job and Juan Montoya is a great champion. They had an unbelievable car, they were the class of the field and I hate to see them lose a race that way.”