Pete Pistone, Senior Editor
Posted Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Juan Pablo Montoya has started the Chase with three straight top-five finishes but the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver will have his work cut out for him to keep the streak going this weekend in the Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway.
Montoya’s best finish at the two-mile speedway was 11th back in February and he has an average finish of 22nd in five career starts at the track.
«I would rather have Atlanta, to be honest. I always run really well at Atlanta. At the same time we ran pretty good (in California) last time we were there,» Montoya said heading into the weekend. «It was very early in the season and even like that we had decent cars. I think right now we’ve got much more competitive cars. Going to California it’s going to be exciting. You’ve got to be very open minded, we’re bringing our best stuff every week. You gotta hope what you bring is good enough.»
Montoya is feeling confident about his chances and the momentum from his hot start to the playoffs. Montoya’s three top-five finishes in the first three Chase races were his first career top fives at each of the three tracks.
«Three top-five finishes in the first three Chase races is huge, you know,» Montoya said. «And it’s what we need to do every weekend. A championship is beating everybody else. We come here to race and to win races and to win races you’ve got to beat everyone else. We know that we’ve got good cars. We know we’re in a very good position but at the end of the day it’s 10 races.»
Montoya turned things around this past weekend at Kansas Speedway where he had finished 28th and 20th in two previous starts. He came home fourth in the Price Chopper 400 and sits third in the Chase standings just 51 points behind leader Mark Martin.
«To finish fourth with the way the car was handling I’m pretty happy,» Montoya said. «We fought hard all day to get the car handling right. It was a long day but we got it together towards the end and were running fast lap times.»
Crew chief Brian Pattie has his eye on moving up the standings but realizes time is on his side.
«Our theory is we don’t have the pace to beat the 48 [of Jimmie Johnson] and the 5 [of Mark Martin] every week for 10 races,» Pattie said. «We’re going to have to do our best and limit the damage at their best race tracks, which is here and Fontana. We did so. And to make up points here is huge.»