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For Juan Pablo Montoya and Carl Edwards, the pressure is really on

For Juan Pablo Montoya and Carl Edwards, the pressure is really on

Juan Pablo Montoya is one of the most talented racers ever to hit NASCAR. So why isn't he winning big?

   By Mike Mulhern

   POCONO, Pa.
   Juan Pablo Montoya, in his nearly six years now in NASCAR, has become an enigma:
   How can a man considered one of the 50 best Formula One drivers in history -- a man with seven F1 wins, including legendary Monaco, and the man who ran the fastest laps in history at Monza -- be such a flop in NASCAR?
   Just two wins, Sonoma in 2007, Watkins Glen in 2010, in 201 starts.
   It's not for lack of talent at this. Montoya's car control can be amazing.
   His knack for high speed is remarkable.
   He won the CART Indy-car championship at 24, in 1999, with seven tours win.
   His aggressiveness on the track is renowned, and has been widely criticized.
   Juan Pablo Montoya, to make it short, should be kicking butt big-time in NASCAR.
   At the least he should be dominating the road courses. But again in June he wasn't even a player at Sonoma, the type of track where a man with his talents should shine.
   Indeed, here in NASCAR something has been missing, for some time.
   Fire? Desire? Horsepower? Chassis? Aero? Leadership?
   For Sunday's Pennsylvania 400 Montoya will start from the pole, and he will try to jump-start the season again, after a woeful first half -- averaging 20th place finishes, only two top-10s, he's 21st in the standings, with virtually no chance of making the playoffs unless he wins two of the next six tour events.
   In NASCAR's power ratings (laps led, passes, speeds, and a myriad of other items) 23 men on the Sprint Cup tour have done better this season than Montoya.
   Montoya knows all this: "We all get frustrated.  We always have our moments.  I will tell you the truth, if you don't get frustrated it is because you don't care. 
    "I care a lot about this program.  We have had our good moments, our bad moments. But I know how hard people are working to make this better. 
    "I have worked harder this year than any other year. 
    "We really want to come out ahead on this.  We've got a ton of new people in the shop, and we have good ideas. 
    "(But) our starting point was so far off that to get there it's going to be a long road.
    "I'm not sure if I'm more shocked we're on the pole -- considering how the last few races have been for us, and how hard our season has been -- or that I'm on the pole in Pocono. This is a place where I struggle in qualifying.
     "It's big. This is a big boost for everybody on the team. We've been working so hard, and we really need a little bit of light.
    "We know we're working in the right direction. We're quite a ways away from where we want to get to.
    "We want to come every weekend knowing we can go out there and be like the Hendrick guys...
    " Right now we're going to a track into the unknown."
     The road ahead is a lot shorter for Carl Edwards, in his bid to make this year's championship playoffs, after scoring enough points in 2011 to win the Sprint Cup title, if not for Tony Stewart's five wins to his one.
    Edwards has only five weeks now to get it done.
   Team owner Jack Roush, at the start of this season, said he wanted his men gambling more for wins, rather than playing it safe.
   However Matt Kenseth has but one win so far, Greg Biffle but one win, and Edwards is still winless. And Edwards has a new crew chief, little-known Chad Norris, now running things.
    Desperate times for Edwards, to be sure.
    "We don't ever panic," Edwards insists.
    "We know we have to win races. I think we can do it; I know we can. We just have to go do it.
    "We have to take chances and remember we are not racing for anything other than a victory."
    After last season, when Edwards had by far the best finishing average over the entire season, this slump has been maddening.
    "I am pretty good at managing all those pressures," Edwards says. "I respect how tough this sport is.
    "The position we are in now is not shocking to me. It is frustrating....but we are strong enough and fast enough and mentally tough enough to go do the best we can and not let this bring us down any further.
    "The things that really set us back this season, none have come from trying too hard or big mistakes. It has been some pretty fluke stuff.
     "Last week our best guess is that we had a problem with the way the spark plug boot engaged the plug."
     Edwards wound up 29th at Indianapolis.

    The switch of Norris for veteran Bob Osborne is still not fully explained.
     "I think Bob is doing pretty well," Edwards says. "I have talked to him -- texting back and forth. He doesn't say much; he is just working.
     "I heard he was complaining about some of the projects they had him working on at the shop, so that makes me feel he is doing okay."
    "Chad is a real racer, really dedicated... and a very different guy, as far as I can tell, from Bob," Edwards says.
    "I still don't know him yet. I don't know his middle name, I don't know where his house is, I don't know anything about him.
     "In a way, that makes it a little simpler: We communicate just at the level of how the car is balanced and what our plans are.
     "There are no other things to talk about because we don't really know each other.
      "That has been a lot different, and I think it has been good. It is what we need right now."

   One potential issue here, according to some teams, are brakes, at the high speeds into turn one particularly. And Jeff Burton's brake issue at Indianapolis only reinforced that worry -- a rotor broke, cutting a tire.
     "I was really surprised at Jeff's brake problem," Edwards said. "I didn't know, as a group in the garage, that we were pushing it that hard. I know Drew (Blickensderfer, the former Roush crew chief now running Burton's team) and Jeff are very astute and not going to abuse the brakes.
     "That surprised me.
      (But) any time you are going this fast, and the racing is as close as it is, there is so much energy in those cars that to slow them down puts a lot of heat through the brake system."
   There are no gauges to tell a driver his brake temps. "The way you read your brake temperature is you feel that pedal and can tell when it starts getting hot," Edwards says. "Sometimes the fluid will boil a little and it will get a little mushy.
   "There should be some sort of (electric) shocker in the seat, and when you push the brakes it shocks you, so you get a negative reinforcement," Edwards said with a laugh.


Montoya/Edwards article

I have to give you credit. I think this is the first story I have seen addressing the 42's poor year, and overall underachieving results since he came to NASCAR. If you recall, many commented he may be the best driver in the world when he transitioned to NASCAR. If the 88 car would be sitting with 2 top-10's after 20 races, there would be a media frenzy media frenzy may be understating it) about poor performance. I believe the 7 in Nationwide is sitting with 1 top-10 in 20 starts. You want to take a stab at that one?

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