Juan Pablo Montoya wins his 1st Nextel Cup race at Infineon Raceway!

NASCAR visits 2 road courses each season and it presents quite a different challenge for drivers and teams. Setting up the cars to turn right as well as left as well as fuel mileage strategy come into play at these tracks. Infineon Raceway which is located in Sonoma California is a 1.99 mile road course with 12 turns. Passing on this track is difficult and up till yesterday winners have all come from near the front starting positions. Montoya who came from the Formula One series to NASCAR's top series is a master of road courses and not even a bad qualifying effort which had him starting in the 32nd position could stop him from reaching the front yesterday. Fuel mileage played the biggest key in yesterday's race as teams tried different strategies such as pitting out of sequence and at possibly opportune times which might allow them to make the entire race on just 2 pit stops. With smaller fuel cells than at last year's event this seemed impossible but with the right amount of well timed cautions crew chiefs and engineers had their calculators and computers working overtime to see if the feat could be accomplished. Under caution you can save a lot of fuel as you peddle the gas lightly and run behind the pace car but to predict cautions is a whole other art form of luck and guesswork.

Montoya's win hold real significance as the last foreigner to win a Cup series event dates way back and the fact that he's a former champion in open wheel racing who's now competing in a stock car which is much harder to drive and with a much larger field (43 cars start each event) to compete against makes yesterday's win a big one. Everyone knows that he's got great talent but the question remained as to whether or not he could compete in such a different setting and be successful with a diffferent driving style. Montoya has done really well so far this season but has struggled at times on some of the tracks. Infineon Raceway must have looked like home to him as Sunday's event began. Though he started deep in the field Montoya quickly moved forward and used a bit of pitting strategy to gain better track position throughout the race. It however was the fuel mileage strategy that ultimately gave him the last push he needed for his 1st Cup Series victory. With just 18 laps to go Montoya was in 2nd behind Jamie McMurray while Kevin Harvick held the 3rd position. Without a caution the teams believed that both McMurray and Montoya would run out of fuel just a few laps short of the finish while Harvick's team had communicated to him that he was good till the end on fuel. It sure looked like Harvick was sitting pretty and just had to wait for them to run out of fuel just as long as there was no caution. While no caution came McMurray did eventually run out of fuel shortly after Montoya had passed him with 7 to go to take the lead. As the laps wound down I can only imagine what Harvick must have been thinking as Montoya continued to run with no fuel issues. Harvick appeared to make a push towards the end to catch Montoya but the gap betweent them was just too much to make up in that short period of time. Amazingly Montoya's fuel lasted and he took the checkered flag with a little over a 4 second lead over Harvick.

As for my favorite drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson they weren't allowed to qualify on Friday and were kept out of a practice session after both of their cars were cited for a front bumper infraction while going through pre race inspection. Gordon would have to start 41st while Johnson started 42nd. Gordon's car was 3rd fastest during happy hour so at least that was a positive. But to work your way to front while starting that far in the back is quite a feat on a road course as passing points are limited and difficult to accomplish. Both Gordon and Johnson used pit strategy to make their way towards the front and Gordon wound up finishing in 7th while Johnson finished in 17th. With 33 laps to go Gordon stopped for fuel only (no tires) and saved about 8 seconds on his stop as he'd taken tires on a recent previous stop and that really helped with his good finish. Gordon still lead the points while Johnson is in 3rd 366 points behind.

NASCAR hands out penalties and suspensions on Tuesday and Gordon and Johnson can only wait and see what they hand down for the rule infractions from Friday's inspections. Dale Jr.'s team was docked 100 points and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. was fined $100,000 and suspended for 6 races following being cited for an illegal wing bracket earlier this season. This marked the first COT (car of tomorrow) infraction and NASCAR officials had warned all teams that any COT rule violation would be met with severe consequences. They weren't kidding! Gordon and Johnson have already been penalized as neither of them were allowed to qualify for this past Sunday's race and were held out of a practice session but I imagine that NASCAR will have more punishments for their violations in store for them tomorrow. Just have to wait and see what is handed down. I'm afraid that it'll be severe but I'm hoping that they'll be lenient with their decision as some punishment has already been handed out.

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About MorningBerryz

Lover and free spirit who's interests in Japanese culture and the like are insatiable. I am of pure Japanese/Okinawan descent, love my cats, sleep and am a bit naughty at times :).
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