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Juan Pablo Montoya! Now he can add Watkins Glen to his resume of victories, like Monaco and Indianapolis

   Juan Pablo Montoya leading Marcos Ambrose through Watkins Glen. They were the two powerhouses all Sunday (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Finally Montoya!
   The easy-going Colombian sprinted away from Aussie Marcos Ambrose down the stretch in a surprisingly calm Sunday 220-miler at Watkins Glen International, quite a change from that wild June wreckfest in California.
    For Juan Pablo Montoya Montoya, who has Formula One wins at Monaco and elsewhere on the international trail, NASCAR racing has been almost like fun-time for him, and he's certainly clearly enjoying the whole stock car experience, and not just on the track.
    So he was cool, again, with the whole thing.
   "I feel more relieved than happy right now. It's been a lot of fun, but frustrating....and now to get that win, now we can get down to business," Montoya said.
   "Last year we were so focused on making the chase that it was all about 'numbers.' This year, well, we had three DNFs in our first five races, and then you had to get realistic (about probably not making the playoff cut), and you start taking more chances...."
    However the victory was very emotional, and sweet vindication, for Brian Pattie, Montoya's crew chief, who blamed himself for the four-tire pit road call at Indianapolis two weeks ago that cost Montoya the victory.
   "I still want a victory on an oval, to prove the point," Pattie said. "We've had fast cars just about everywhere.
   "But this is pretty emotional. Two weeks it was my fault...hopefully this makes up for that a little."
    The 'diversity' battle was an interesting touch....and in another day, this might have been seen as a race of road course 'ringers,' considering Montoya's Formula One background and Ambrose' own road racing record down under.
   But these two men are NASCAR tour regulars, Montoya since 2007, and Ambrose now a two-year veteran.
   The 2-1/2-hour race was pretty much all Montoya-versus-Ambrose.  No one else really challenged seriously for the lead. And Montoya pulled away easily over the final 16 laps around this two-mile course, winning by more than five seconds, the biggest margin in years.
   Unexpectedly there was little of the high-drama, hot-fevered action that turned the Sonoma road race into a series of angry melees. But that was just fine with most of the drivers here, who have been Jekyll-and-Hyde all season.

   Montoya, on a perfectly beautiful Sunday afternoon (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    "We lost the handle on it after that last pit stop. Don't know if it was a 'bad' set of tires or if the track changed on us," Ambrose said of his late-race fade after battling Montoya to a draw for much of the pleasantly warm and dry afternoon in New York's Finger Lakes region.
   "It's been a good weekend, though it hurts to finish third. I want to win one of these things so bad.....and I don't have my plans completed for next season."
   Montoya in winning here is now the fourth driver this season to snap a 50-plus losing streak. The win was Montoya's first since Sonoma in 2007, 113 races ago.
      Kurt Busch, finishing second, was the day's surprise...in an interesting twist -- the finish wound up being Chip Ganassi's guy first, and Roger Penske's guy second. Ganassi and Penske are arch-rivals on the Indy-car tour.
    "I wanted Ambrose on Montoya's rear at the end, and maybe those two could fight it out and give us an opportunity to win," Busch said. "I thought those two might rough each other up.
   "It was a good day for us. Montoya had us beat. But we put an exclamation point on a road course, so it feels really good....especially not getting run over by a Hendrick guy. "
   That line from Busch drew a lot of laughs; after last weekend's incident with Jimmie Johnson, in which Johnson crashed out Busch, in a vicious accident, Busch has made clear that he owes Johnson more than a few paybacks.
   But Busch never got a chance here Sunday, because Johnson was never in the game.
    It was another rough afternoon for Johnson, who had some battery issues, never challenged, and then finally got collected in a late race incident when Kyle Busch – also having a rough day – tried to make it three-wide coming off long, flat turn five, at the end of the backstretch. That incident took out Denny Hamlin, Busch's teammate, who wasn't very happy about that.
   And it wasn't a very good day for the other Rick Hendrick drivers, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
   "We overcame a lot during the weekend, though the results might not show it," Johnson said. "Jeff (Burton) indicated Kyle Busch was racing him, and I got caught up in it."
   Another surprise, perhaps, was AJ Allmendinger, fourth in Richard Petty's famous 43, just days after signing a new driving contract with the George Gillett-owned Ford operation. Allmendinger had the best finishing Ford, by a hair over Carl Edwards. Greg Biffle ran strong much of the race but faded late.

      The results for Sunday's Heluva Good! 220-miler at Watkins Glen International


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  Juan Pablo Montoya, champagne in hand, and in the air (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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