Sunday, June 24, 2007

Montoya Wins - So Now What?

Juan Montoya stretched his fuel amid the short-pitting and fuel mileage strategies common to road racing, and won the Sears Point 350 of 2007. He becomes the third non-American racer to win a Winston Cup race - Italian-born Mario Andretti and Canadian Earl Ross are the others - and his win is the first for Ganassi/SABCO Racing since October 2002 with Jamie McMurray - and for supreme irony we have the fact that McMurray, in his present run with Jack Roush, is the one who ran out of gas out of second place dueling Montoya. The return of Ganassi-SABCO to victory ends a nearly-five year run where just ten teams monopolized Winston Cup wins - between the 2002 and 2007 wins by Ganassi/SABCO, only Hendrick, RCR, DEI, Joe Gibbs, Morton-Bowers (now Robert Ginn Racing), Roush/Roush-Fenway, Robert Yates, Ray Evernham, Penske South, and the now-defunct Cal Wells team broke through to victory. In a further irony, it is also the first Winston Cup win for sponsor Texaco-Havoline since the 2002 Sears Point 350, won by Ricky Rudd in Robert Yates' #28.

Montoya has now won in CART, IRL, F1, and two touring divisions of NASCAR, and the question is begged ---- now what?

When Montoya won in BGN in Mexico, some felt it would ignite momentum for Montoya to improve his rookie Winston Cup season. Instead, Montoya, who'd been Mr. Irrelevent most of the time before that win, slipped back to irrelevency but added to his baggage with several on-track bullying incidents - it is telling that Montoya tried to swerve Jimmie Johnson aside in the Sears Point race and Johnson pushed back. His runs on ovals have for the most part been awful, with little passing and a seeming lack of understanding at times on how to attack ovals.

His next road race is at Watkins Glen in mid-August, and until then Montoya has the daunting task not only of adapting to ovals on a consistent basis, but also winning the hearts of a fanbase not wrongly feeling cast aside for notional marketing bucks for Brian France. He hits New Hampshire for the first time at the end of June and then returns to Daytona.


The big story early in the Sears Point weekend was the cheating scandal involving Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson's cars. Brian France - future Los Angeles Raiders owner? - made a point of stating that NASCAR will crack down hard on alterations to the COT. But there isn't much reason to believe him given how far ahead of NASCAR are its top race teams in the technology curve and also given NASCAR's notoriously lax punishments against big teams for cheating.

It leaves one wondering if something will turn up at NHIS this weekend.

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