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Montoya looking more and more like a Chase contender

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Juan Pablo Montoya is having a summer to remember.

Montoya has established himself as one of the hottest drivers in the Sprint Cup Series right now by going on a remarkable streak that has seen the Earnhardt Ganassi driver score six top-10 finishes in his last eight races, since Dover, and climb from 15th to eighth in points in the process.

Last week at Indianapolis, Montoya suffered a costly pit road speeding penalty that likely prevented the Bogota, Colombia native from recording his first win on an oval. He led 116 laps before the penalty resulted in an 11th-place finish.

Montoya recovered nicely from his Indy mishap with a second-place run at Pocono. He did not lead a lap, but a key pit stop late in the race helped him secure a season-best finish so far. His final stop of the race came just before the eighth caution on lap 165. Several drivers on the lead lap pitted during the caution, allowing Montoya to move up in the field.

With five races remaining before the "Chase for the Sprint Cup" championship begins, Montoya is 169 points ahead of 13th-place Kyle Busch. The top-12 drivers in points will qualify for the 10-race Chase after Richmond.

Juan Pablo Montoya is 169 points ahead of 13th-place Kyle Busch.
"If you make the Chase with the current NASCAR rules, you've made it," Montoya said. "You've proved to the people you're one of the best teams out there. Week-in and week-out we've been doing it, and I think we can. I think right now is a realistic possibility."

Montoya has come a long way in a little over three years time.

In July 2006, Montoya announced his plans to leave the Formula One circuit and compete in NASCAR's top series. His first Sprint Cup victory came on a road course (Sonoma, CA) during his 2007 rookie campaign, but he finished 20th that season and dropped to 25th last year.

At the start of the season, many doubted that Montoya had a shot at making this year's Chase, but crew chief Brian Pattie - the brains behind Montoya's new-found success - kept plugging away. Since joining the No.42 team last season, Pattie has turned Montoya into a championship contender.

"A year ago when I sat down with Brian, our goal was to make the Chase this year, and we did, so far," Montoya said.

With Watkins Glen, NY the next stop on the Cup schedule, Montoya has an opportunity to further solidify his position in the Chase. Montoya's previous F1 and CART experience has helped him become one of the top road course aces in NASCAR.

"For us going to a road course is good," he said. "Watkins Glen we normally got a really good car. For us, if we can get a top five out of there, I know we can probably win the race and the points for the Chase would be huge."

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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