Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Montoya's victory at Watkins Glen: A nice breakthrough for the guy from Miami, and for crew chief Pattie, after a hard season of frustrations

  At long last, victory, and Juan Pablo Montoya and crew chief Brian Pattie certainly deserve this one (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

  You want warm-and-fuzzy NASCAR? Well, how about Juan Pablo Montoya's win here Sunday...avenging, in a sense those two big disappointments at Indianapolis – and coming on a perfect day for racing in the New York Finger Lakes.
   Throw in a great duel with Marcos Ambrose, and then a surprising late-race charge by Kurt Busch, and it was all just really peachy.
   Yes, Montoya, despite having one of the strongest cars all season, is long out of the hunt for a playoff spot (the Richmond, Va., cut is just a month away).
   But Montoya himself says he tries to see that as something of a plus. Last year he and crew chief Brian Pattie (now with his first Sprint Cup victory as a team boss) worked so hard to make the championship chase, and they did, finishing eighth overall at the end of the season. But along the way in the regular season Montoya was pretty much clear that he was just points-racing. And here, in the warm glow of Sunday's victory, the second of his now four-year Cup career, Montoya says it's more fun this season just to go out and race for wins.
       "We had a good talk with Chip (Saturday)," Montoya said.  "The last few weeks have been really frustrating for the whole team, because we've been so close to victory....but things seemed to keep slipping away.
    "So to get the job done the way we did, it was big.  I feel more relieved than happy right now. 
    "It's been a really hard road in a way....It's been a lot of fun, but it's been frustrating. 
    "And to finally get that first win for Brian, it's good.
    "I think this will really bring the team together."
   Pattie has been kicking himself for that four-tire late-race call at Indianapolis two weeks ago that left Montoya, who had been dominating, with Greg Biffle,
back in the pack. And Montoya wound up in the wall in traffic and failed to finish.

    Racing for wins, Montoya says, is more fun than racing for points.
       "Last year we were so focused on making the chase, it was all about numbers. 
    "It wasn't about being fast...it was about bringing the car home. 
    "This year we thought we were going to do the same thing.  But we had a blown motor race two (California), and in race three (Las Vegas) taken out with a teammate (Jamie McMurray).
    "All of a sudden by race five we had three DNFs. 
    "When you have three out of five races and the DNFs keep happening, you have to be realistic. You have to start being more aggressive.
    "I made a lot of mistakes this year.  I hurt the team a lot from that point.
   "We can learn a lot this season on how to execute a little better, and prepare ourselves for next season.
    "It's kind of funny  -- last year we didn't have the pace we have this year and we made the chase pretty easy. This year we had two cars capable easily of making the chase, and both cars are out. "

   Even after making the chase last fall, Montoya said the frustration level kept increasing: "It's been frustrating, because you could see the performance get better and better."
   Last year in the playoffs Montoya and Pattie opened strong, with thirds at New Hampshire, California and Martinsville, and fourths at Dover and Kansas.
   "But that win would never come, so it was getting frustrating," Montoya said.
   And that's been the case again this season too often.
   So before this race the team meeting was all about keeping everyone cool about it all.
   "It's something Brian keeps saying: 'Keep saving the car, keep saving the car, keep saving the car,'" Montoya said, mindful of that wild and woolly race at Sonoma a few weeks back, where he did manage to finish 10th, on a day when just finishing wasn't easy for anyone.
   "And it paid off."

    For Pattie the day went so smoothly it was almost surprising: "It seemed pretty easy, other than the mid-stint during the race where Marcos was on our tail pretty hard."
   "I even said on the radio 'Why is he trying so hard? Just ride for a little,'" Montoya said.

    So he didn't have catch any radio jabs from his driver.
    During the string of close-but-no-cigar runs, the tension after whatever mistake or miscue or bad luck, has been clear on their radios.
    Montoya, though he gets quite heated for a moment, doesn't appear to let it linger, as too many other drivers in the sport tend to do. When it's over, it's over.
    "When the wins slip away -- either my fault, his fault -- the fault doesn't really matter," Montoya says. "When you go home empty-handed, it's frustrating.
   "We have to learn how to make better judgment calls – myself too, when I'm driving, help them make better calls. 
   "But I think we're really understanding what needs to be done to win those races.
    "And this is a big relief for everybody...the first win for Brian...it's a big boost for the whole team. 
     "We're going to have good weeks and bad weeks and you'll hear things on the radio....but hopefully not as much."
    To which Pattie, with a laugh, replied "Please."

    The relationship between Montoya and Pattie "wasn't bad to begin with," Pattie says.  "But when you're passionate about winning races at this level, the closer we got, the worse it got for frustration level. 
    "We've led a lot of laps, led a lot of races this year. 
    "We're there week-in and week-out. 
    "I want to build our organization, and a team that can consistently run at this level. I don't want to come in and win a rain delay."
    To which Montoya replied "I will still take one of those."
    Over the past year, since Montoya and Pattie  began turning things around, last summer so clearly in the Brickyard 400, they've shown a championship caliber team, with consistency (even a third at Martinsville, which is no Monaco), albeit with too much bad luck.
    "It's the only way you can win championships -- be good everywhere," Montoya says with disarming simplicity.
     "When you start leading races....
      "When you're running fifth or sixth, you're not there." 

   Sunday's end-game setup had Montoya a little worried. Ambrose, with 16 laps to go, said he was going to pressure Montoya and hope for a mistake.
   And Montoya's thinking right then?       
   "I thought if I can pull away from him a little bit and stabilize, and if he pushes 100 percent, if he doesn't make any ground, he's going to start making mistakes," Montoya said. 
    "I don't know if he made any mistakes, but I did push like hell."
    Ambrose in fact had problems; his tires apparently didn't air up just right, and he faded to third.

     For Pattie the Glen "is my favorite track. So this means a lot.
    "Some of the team even left Tuesday after work to drive up here because they love it so much. 
   "This couldn't happen at a better place.
     "I love coming here, and walking into the garage, because I think I have as many notes as anybody here.  That's not the case everywhere, but here definitely I feel comfortable."
    Still, just when Montoya took the white flag for the final lap, Pattie had to get off the pit box and disappear for a few moments: "I feel like a monkey in that cage.  There's 40,000 people standing around.  Just get away a little bit, catch my breath."
   And then go find victory lane....



      [Note: You can use Twitter as an easy headline service for mikemulhern.net stories, with our instant Tweets to your mobile as soon as our newest NASCAR story is filed. And mikemulhern.net is mobile-friendly for viewing. You can also use the orange RSS feed button as a quickie headline service on your laptop or home computer for mikemulhern.net stories, by creating a Live Bookmark RSS feed on your web browser's toolbar. Or you can create a Google Alert for mikemulhernnet.]


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com