'No holding back' for Montoya in NASCAR's Chase
The usually aggressive Juan Pablo Montoya played it relatively safe during NASCAR's regular season to avoid poor finishes and qualify for its Chase for the Sprint Cup championship playoff.
Now that he's in the Chase, Montoya is back to his old ways.
"There's no holding back, nothing, we have to go," Montoya told reporters today in a teleconference after the Colombian finished third in the first Chase race, at New Hampshire, on his 34th birthday Sunday -- and after banging into a few of his competitors.
He's now is fourth in the title hunt, 55 points behind Mark Martin of Hendrick Motorsports, who won the New Hampshire race for his fifth victory of the year. There are nine races left in the Chase, including this Sunday's race on the one-mile Dover (Del.) International Speedway and the Pepsi 500 on Oct. 11 at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
Montoya, who migrated to NASCAR in 2007 after winning the Indianapolis 500 and several races in Formula One, praised the Cup cars he has been getting lately from crew chief Brian Pattie and their team at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
"With the kind of cars he's given me, we can't just go out there and just ride," Montoya said. "We are doing the best we can and trying to drive the car as hot as I can, and I don't want to leave anything on the table."
Another driver in the Chase, 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch of Penske Racing, sounded a bit more measured in a separate call with reporters. Busch is fifth in the standings, 65 points back, after finishing sixth at New Hampshire.
"We definitely want to finish strong," Busch said, but added that "consistency plays a huge role in this Chase. We finished sixth Sunday. If we can carry sixth every Sunday, I would say that we're going to be pretty tough to beat."
Separately, NASCAR today penalized the team of Busch's younger brother, Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing, for having a car at New Hampshire with a left front fender that was found to be too low in post-race inspection.
Busch, who just missed the Chase and is 13th in the standings, was docked 25 championship points and his crew chief, Steve Addington, was fined $25,000 and placed on probation for the rest of the season.
-- Jim Peltz
Photo: Juan Pablo Montoya, in his No. 42 Chevrolet, leads Kurt Busch in the No. 2 Dodge at last Sunday's Sylvania 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images