California notebook: Winning is big, but not biggest, for Montoya

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Juan Pablo Montoya enters Sunday’s Pepsi 500, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., as the third-ranked driver in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Yet he still hasn’t won a race this year. Montoya’s only victory was at Infineon Raceway, also in California, back in 2007.

«Now that you look back at it, you’ll be thinking, I wish we would have won a couple of races,» he conceded. «It’s not like I didn’t try, you know, but it’s where we are. We are working hard at it. We would be very happy if we got to Homestead with a mathematical chance of winning the championship. It would be huge for us, more than anything. If you can actually go through the 10 races and still be a contender, that would be great.»

A spat with Brad Keselowski at Kansas notwithstanding, Montoya said he was pleased with the respect afforded him by other drivers.

«They’ve been very good,» he said. «Most of the people who are non-Chase drivers are very good. They give you a lot of room, and you’ve got to respond the same way. There’s not much more you can do.

«Everybody is still racing. By you being in the Chase, you’ve got to be aware, as well, that you’re vulnerable. People can run over you pretty easily. I think you help yourself by giving them the space because they don’t have much to lose compared to us.»

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