Montoya Hands Dodge First Season Win

by : Mike Bartley

After leaving McLaren and Formula One racing last season, Juan Pablo Montoya embarked on a stint as a stock car racer. He signed up with Chip Ganassi Racing and instantly became the driver to watch out for on road tracks. Being in the Nextel Cup Series means that the Colombian driver should hone his skill on oval tracks, but on winding circuits, Montoya is still the man to beat and he showed that at the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

The former Formula One driver proved that he has what it takes to take on the big guns of NASCAR on road tracks. Starting from the 32nd position, Montoya set a record for starting at the deepest position and taking the win at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California.

During the latter stages of the race, Montoya's team made the right decision of not calling him into the pits to top up his fuel. The "rookie" managed to take the win and after crossing the finish line, his car stopped running because it has run out of fuel.

"It was a good day," said Montoya after the race. "It was tough. You don't know how fast you are. I was patient. We made some changes on the car and that made a difference it was good. We had good restarts and it was hard when we were behind traffic because in turns 7 and 11 you have to get on the gas and it was really hard. It was easy to spin the wheels. I knew I was running third with 10 to go and I didn't want to finish third. I picked up the pace a little bit and at the same time I was trying to roll the car as much as I could. I was just being very patient."

The Colombian driver gave Dodge its first win of the season. During most of the races this season, it was Chevrolet cars which have dominated. Prior to Montoya's win in his Dodge Avenger which would not be equipped , there were only two races this season not won by a Chevrolet vehicle. Montoya's win also marked the first time that a Chi Ganassi Racing driver has taken a win at the Nextel Cup since 2002.

"I'll tell you the truth," said Montoya. "I was very surprised by the level of the drivers here. In Mexico I had a very good car and the drivers were very strong, but here, man the top 20 were - you had to work for your money. At the end we were right behind Kevin and I was saving the tires. I just tried to keep up with him for 15-20 laps and when I started pushing it I everything fell into place. That was huge. I think this will be a big boost for everybody working in the shop."

The driver also claimed that his win will give the sport a boost. "I think in a way it's going to be good for the whole NASCAR sport. I think me winning today is going to bring a lot of attention the next few races. It's good for me. It's good for the whole team. I think it's good for the sport. I'm very proud to be part of it. If I can help it's good." Whether he will give Dodge more wins this season is yet to be found out though.