At Indy, Montoya hopes to make up for disappointing season

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:21 AM ET

INDIANAPOLIS - It has not been a good year for Juan Pablo Montoya.

Marred in 17th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship — so far behind the 10th and final Chase spot that it would take a miracle for the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet to make it — Montoya still goes into Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as one of the favourites to win.

He qualified seventh on Saturday, setting up his fifth chance to win a NASCAR race at Indy.

That Montoya is a favourite at the Brickyard is based on his record here — he and Canada’s Jacques Villeneuve are still the only racers who have competed at Indy in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR — where he has done everything but win in a stock car.

In his first NASCAR attempt he finished second to Tony Stewart in 2007, but in the three races since he has suffered a multitude of miscues that took him from contender to also-ran status.

“We gave ourselves chances (to win) and I think it is more important to give yourself a chance to win than run 10th every time or 15th every time here,” he said. “Like I say, we haven’t taken the trophy home but we’ve been good.”

But in spite of his NASCAR failures at Indianaplis — he did win the IndyCar Indianapolis 500 for Ganassi in 2000 — Montoya remains confident of his chances to break out of his Brickyard drought on Sunday.

“Indy has always been good to me, I don’t know why, in every car I’ve been in,” he said prior to qualifying. “It’s always fun.”

Well, not so much fun as winning, of course. And looking at his Sprint Cup record — except for his road course wins in 2007 at California’s Infineon Raceway and last year at Watkins Glen International — Montoya is a futile 0 for 156 when racing on ovals — and, last anyone checked, Indianapolis was an oval.

It is that record that prompted team owner Chip Ganassi to fire Montoya’s crew chief Brian Pattie last week and replace him with Jim Pohlman, just in time for this year’s Brickyard race.

Montoya claims he was not in on the decision to replace Pattie and admits he is not entirely certain making changes to a team is a good thing at this stage of the season.

“We’re a little nervous to see what’s going to happen,” he said. “I just want to get on with the job and come here and do what we’re meant to be doing — whether the (crew chief’s) name is Brian, Billy, Jim, Chip whatever you want to call him.

“It’s Chip’s team and it’s his decision who he wants me to run with and work with.”

Montoya is hoping that with only seven races left to make up the 59 points he is back of 10th place before the Chase for the Championship starts, the change on top of the pit box will propel the No. 42 team forward.

“If you’re going to make a change this is the time of the year to make a change because you’ve got enough time if everything changes smooth you can still perform and still get a couple of wins and get into the Chase,” he said. “We made silly mistakes the last few races, we ran out of gas and stuff and we lost a lot of points. But it is what it is.”

Montoya said so far in their very short relationship, he is getting along fine with Pohlman.

“He’s very open-minded; he really wants to get the job done,” he said. “You have somebody so pumped to get the job done and it’s what it takes.”

Aware of the monumental task of making the Chase this season, Montoya said that the team is also looking ahead to next season for a fresh start with Pohlman on board.

“We’re giving ourselves enough time until the end of the season to prepare for next year and everything,” he said.


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