Juan Pablo Montoya was a cinch for his first Sprint Cup win on an oval last night at Richmond International Raceway, but a late caution turned the race into a free-for-all — and also ended his hopes.
With five laps remaining, it appeared a hard-charging Kevin Harvick was going to run out of time in his efforts to catch Montoya. But when Brian Vickers crashed in Turn 3 to bring out the yellow, everything changed.
“I said, ‘Really? Really?’,” Montoya replied with a laugh when asked of what was going through his mind at the time. TV cameras caught him bashing the steering wheel of his No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet in frustration.
Instead of celebrating the end of a 94-race winless streak (Watkins Glen, 2010), Montoya and his EGR team were forced to look at the big picture and opted to pit with four laps to go for fresh tires.
Harvick did the same, and so Montoya and Harvick lined up sixth and seventh respectively for the green-white-checkered restart. But Montoya restarted on the outside and was only able to peel off two positions for a fourth-place result, while Harvick used his fresh tires to pull off a stunning win.
Montoya achieved his first Top 5 finish since Martinsville Speedway in 2011 and a much-needed first Top 10 of 2013. While he was understandably annoyed with his near-miss, he recognized how important it was to come away with a solid finish after a rough start to the campaign.
“[Ticked] off,” said Montoya. “Everybody…this week did an amazing job. We had a great car. Same as last week, we had a great car. The pit crew redeemed themselves tonight. They did a great job all day, no mistakes. That is what we needed.
“…It is the luck of the draw. We restarted on the outside, and we were screwed.”