INDIANAPOLIS — If Juan Pablo Montoya’s NASCAR Sprint Cup career at the Brickyard 400 was a television show it would surely be The Biggest Loser.
Montoya, for the second year in a row, threw away a win on Sunday with a mistake on pit row in the final stages of the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after dominating the 43-car field all afternoon.
But if Montoya left Indy on Sunday as the biggest loser, his team co-owner Chip Ganassi left as the biggest winner, accomplishing a triple that may stand for a long, long time, winning the three most prestigious American oval races: The Daytona 500 with Jamie McMurray, the Indianapolis 500 with Dario Franchitti and the Brickyard 400 on Sunday with McMurray in the same calendar year.
McMurray, meanwhile, became the third driver in history to win the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same season. The previous two were Dale Jarrett in 1996 and Jimmie Johnson in 2006.
For Montoya, last year it was a speeding penalty that killed his chances after leading 116 of 160 laps but on Sunday, after leading a race-high 86 laps, it was a decision by the No. 42 team to take four new tires when everybody else among the leaders took just two that ended the Colombian’s hopes of him making history by winning both the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400.
The tire decision put Montoya back in the field, where he ended up hitting the wall and crashing into the No. 88 Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 13 laps to go.
The beneficiary of Montoya’s largesse was McMurray who got his first victory at Indianapolis in his No. 1 EGR Chevrolet.
Even he admitted that his teammate had the best car on Sunday.
“We didn’t have the best car,” McMurray said. “Honestly, when Juan was leading and I was second, I’m a big believer in fate, and I thought this was how it was meant to be.
“I won Daytona, Dario won the (Indy) 500 and I thought Juan was going to win this one.”
Ganassi also took time after the race to express his thoughts on what Montoya was going through for the second time in 12 months.
“My heart goes out to Juan,” he said. “(He still) had a great day. But he knows and the team knows that we win as a team and we lose as a team. Today we grew as a team and that Juan, I’m sure, will grow from this.”
As for Montoya himself, he chose not to talk to the media after the incident, instead making a bee line for his motor coach with a curt: “I have no comment.”
Brian Pattie, crew chief for the No, 42 EGR team, however, took the blame for the mistake this time round.
“I was the one who made the call to take four tires,” he said. “This year it is my fault.”
Kevin Harvick finished second in the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, adding to his lead in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship.
“We had a chance to win at the end came up just a little short,” he said.
Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson fought for first place with Montoya in the early stages of the race, but faded to finish 22nd, ending his quest to win three consecutive races at the Brickyard.
Greg Biffle, in the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford was third.
Clint Bowyer, in the No. 33 RCR Chevrolet and Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet rounded out the top five.