Juan Pablo Montoya’s presence in NASCAR is truly historic. He was recognized as one of the world’s great driving talents long before he strapped himself into a stock car.
In addition to his one Sprint Cup victory (at Infineon Raceway in 2007), Montoya also has won both the Indianapolis 500 and the Grand Prix of Monaco.
When he moved from Formula One to NASCAR, it was unprecedented.
Success hasn’t come easily for Montoya in NASCAR, where he has won only once in 126 starts. New Hampshire Motor Speedway was a disappointment after Montoya’s No. 42 Chevrolet started on the pole. He crashed after tangling with Reed Sorenson late in the Lenox 301 and was credited with 34th place.
"The teams are really competitive. ... It is hard. It is so competitive," Montoya said.
He made the Chase for the Sprint Cup last year, but the odds are against him. With nine races remaining in the regular season, he is 22nd in points — 183 behind 12th place. The top 12 regular-season finishers make up the Chase field.
What’s frustrating for Montoya is his belief that the team is stronger this year than last.
"We are miles ahead right now," he said. "We have a much faster race car than what we had last year at this point.
"But we had a blown engine. We got together with our teammate. We’ve been involved in I don’t know how many wrecks from other people. ... We have been right behind the wrecks. We have been a row or two rows behind where they wreck, and they block the whole track and right there, you are just a passenger. We have had, like, seven of those this year."
Though Montoya is, by background, a road racer, racing a stock car on road courses didn’t come as easily as one might think.
"It’s crazy," he said, "because, for me, it’s awkward being in these cars on a road course. ... There’s just no grip. You know what I mean? ... It’s just different. Put it that way."
The Bogota, Colombia, native now lives in Miami. He won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 and the Grand Prix of Monaco in 2003. Montoya’s first NASCAR victory was a Nationwide Series race in Mexico City in 2007.
Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston Gazette in North Carolina since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog, http://nascar.rbma.com, features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Dutton at firstname.lastname@example.org.