Atlanta: Juan Pablo Montoya race report

Another Top-20 Finish for Montoya and Big Red Team HAMPTON, Ga. (March 9, 2008)-Juan Pablo Montoya drove his No. 42 Wrigley's™ Big Red® Dodge to a 16th-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday and moved up another spot in the NASCAR...

Another Top-20 Finish for Montoya and Big Red Team

HAMPTON, Ga. (March 9, 2008)-Juan Pablo Montoya drove his No. 42 Wrigley's™ Big Red® Dodge to a 16th-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday and moved up another spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings to 23rd. Montoya struggled to find grip out of the corners all day, but scored a top-20 finish despite the handling issues.

After qualifying 19th on Friday night, Montoya and the Big Red team only got one practice session in on Saturday due to snow at the Atlanta track. It warmed up significantly on Sunday, and the green flag dropped under dry and sunny skies. It took just 10 laps for Montoya to radio Crew Chief Donnie Wingo to let him know the car was tight through the center and really loose off the corners. It was a condition that would plaque the team most of the day despite making several changes during pit stops.

The leader was setting a blazing pace out front, and by lap 50 of the 325-lap event, only 22 cars remained on the lead lap including Montoya. NASCAR waved the yellow flag on lap 84 for debris, and Wingo called for the removal of a spring rubber out of the right rear and an air pressure adjustment to help the Big Red Dodge off the corners. Racing resumed on lap 89 with Montoya sitting 14th.

Montoya raced as high as 11th on lap 118, and a round of green-flag stops began on lap 163. He brought his red Dodge down pit road on lap 169 for a trackbar adjustment, four fresh tires and fuel. He told Wingo he was still "way too loose" and was passed by the leader on lap 192. Unfortunately, when the caution waved on lap 198 Montoya was not in position to earn the free pass back onto the lead lap. Wingo made another air pressure adjustment on the team's pit stop. Montoya took the green flag on lap 204 in the 15th position, one lap down with just 12 cars remaining on the lead lap.

The Big Red team continued to battle to get in position to get back on the lead lap, but ill-timed caution flags didn't allow it. At several times over the closing 60 laps Montoya was the first car a lap down. The team just couldn't get the break it needed to get its lap back. Montoya finished the race in the 16th position and a lap down to the race winner.

The solid point's day moved the team up one spot to 23rd in the standings, tied with teammate Reed Sorenson who is officially listed at 22nd. Montoya and the team are just 79 points out of 12th place heading to Bristol Motor Speedway for next weekend's race.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: "It was an OK day for us. We never could get a good line all day long. We were really loose out of the corners and never could get a consistent run. It was really tough to get any grip most of the day and when the track got warmer, it made it even worse. I was happy that we were able to get a top-20 finish in our Wrigley's Big Red Dodge."

-credit: cgr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya