He’s baaaack: Juan Pablo Montoya has high hopes for NASCAR race at Michigan

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Juan Pablo Montoya racing in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan likely boils down to one of two things:

1) He has some unfinished business from his previous seven-year stint in NASCAR, or,

2) Old habits are hard to break.

Whatever the case, while Montoya has returned to a full-time open-wheel ride in IndyCar this season, he just can’t fully quit stock-car racing.

Especially when he thinks he has a chance to win in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

“Absolutely, our goal is to win the race,” Montoya said. “Michigan is a huge race for Roger (Penske) and for the manufacturers. It would be an honor for me to be able to do that for them.

“We tested the No.12 Ford several weeks ago at Nashville and it was really quick. I felt like I got up to speed in no time. That said, we realize that it’s going to be difficult. The Cup Series is always evolving so when you aren’t in the car every week you can get behind easily. But I have two teammates that are among the fastest drivers every race (Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano), so I know the speed will be there to contend.”

Sunday will be the first of two Sprint Cup races Montoya will compete in this season, the other being the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis next month.

Montoya is enjoying the challenge of returning to IndyCar, currently seventh in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings, with three top-five finishes, including a season-best third-place showing last Saturday at Texas.

But don’t expect Montoya to make a full-time return to NASCAR anytime soon.

“For me it’s more of an opportunity to maybe win a race or two here,” Montoya said in a media session Friday at MIS. “This year we’ve got two really good shots. This is probably one of the best tracks for the Fords.

“They always excel here and have a car that can win, and the way Team Penske is running right now, if it clicks from the beginning, and we hope it does, we might have a shot at winning this.”

Montoya was twice in contention to win the Brickyard but ultimately came up short each time. In the past, he’s called failing to win there as one of the most frustrating defeats that continues to gnaw at him to this day.

“Going to the Brickyard is a place that I run really well,” Montoya said. “When we ran bad we were always in the top 10, so going there in a car like this you’re definitely looking at a shot at a win as well.”

Montoya hasn’t exactly had the greatest history at Michigan – with just three top-10 finishes in 14 starts – but he feels confident that Team Penske equipment will make up for his past shortcomings there, as well as serve as a tune-up for Indy.

“To be honest with you, with the way Team Penske is running here it’s a hell of a chance,” said Montoya, who will start 28th in Sunday’s race. “You see Joey’s (Logano) comments sometimes and he says it was a terrible day and he finished fifth or sixth, so from my history here I would have killed to have a car that would do that.

“Our goal here, I think, is we’ll take it as it comes this weekend, but the way really look at it is it’s really good preparation for the Brickyard.

“The way Team Penske is running right now, they look like every week they have a shot at winning, so if we do a good job here and we have a decent race we’ll easily get a top 10 and if I’m really comfortable in the car we could even look at a win.

“I think this track, with my background in open wheel, coming here is gonna play into my hands a little bit because it’s a really fast track. It’s a track you don’t brake, it’s a track where you’re really controlling the throttle and you do that a lot in Indy Car.

“Roger gave me the opportunity to come here and we want to make SKF (race sponsor) and the Ford group proud of what we can do.”

Added crew chief Greg Erwin, “Juan Montoya is a world-class driver. Any crew chief would want to work with a driver with that kind of experience. … It’s going to be a fun weekend. Obviously we aren’t worrying about points, so we are able to lay it on the line.”

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NHRA: Force power — Courtney, Brittany — dominates 1st day of qualifying at Norwalk

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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NHRA Media Release

NORWALK, Ohio – Both Brittany and Courtney Force are the current No. 1 qualifiers in their respective nitro categories after one qualifying session due to inclement weather at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park.

Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) is also a current No. 1 qualifier at the 12th event of 24 on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. Weather did not allow for Pro Stock to take to the track during Friday’s qualifying.

Force piloted her Monster Energy / Advance Auto Parts dragster to a 3.776-second pass at 324.44 mph which took her to the top of the Top Fuel category Friday evening. She looks to secure her second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 10th of her career.

“That pass was very important for our team,” B. Force stated. “With the rain you don’t know how many laps you’re going to get in before race day. The conditions were great, and we just went straight down there.”

Eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher is in second after his U.S. Army ran a pass of 3.792 at 324.44. Points leader Steve Torrence is third with a 3.792 at 327.82 in his Capco Contractors dragster.

Funny Car points leader Courtney Force leads qualifying with her run of 3.935 at 327.66 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS. She is coming off a No. 1 qualifying position in Bristol and seeking her eighth No. 1 of the season.

“Going up there I was a little surprised we were going to lay down a number like that,” C. Force said. “With the rain coming in I was just looking for a clean run from point A to B. The car went straight down there and it felt like a good run.”

Ron Capps is in second after his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T ran a 3.961 at 320.28 and teammate Matt Hagan is third with a 3.981 at 325.22.

Smith holds the Pro Stock Motorcycle top spot after running as 6.866 at 195.39 on his Victory Magnum. He looks to lock-in his first No. 1 qualifier of the season.

“It was good to get the first run down,” Smith stated. “We have a top three bike every weekend. I’ve just got to do my job, be focused and hurt some feelings.”

Angelle Sampey rode her Team Liberty Racing Victory Magnum to a 6.899 at 193.24 and Andrew Hines rounds out the top three with a 6.911 at 194.58.

Qualifying for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals continues at 12:45 p.m. Saturday at Summit Motorsports Park.

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NORWALK, Ohio — Friday’s results after the first one of three rounds of qualifying for the 12th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, 12th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

TOP FUEL: 1. Brittany Force, 3.776 seconds, 324.44 mph; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.792, 330.63; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.792, 327.82; 4. Clay Millican, 3.800, 329.91; 5. Antron Brown, 3.805, 323.27; 6. Mike Salinas, 3.818, 313.07; 7. Pat Dakin, 3.833, 328.86; 8. Doug Kalitta, 3.871, 309.13; 9. Leah Pritchett, 4.099, 271.73; 10. Scott Palmer, 5.854, 116.34; 11. Richie Crampton, 6.073, 104.42; 12. Blake Alexander, 7.041, 82.72; 13. Dom Lagana, 7.105, 85.82; 14. Terry McMillen, 7.432, 91.70; 15. Luigi Novelli, 7.996, 75.45; 16. Chris Karamesines, 9.544, 59.37. Not Qualified: 17. Kyle Wurtzel, 10.731, 64.88; 18. Audrey Worm, 12.635, 56.10.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.935, 327.66; 2. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.961, 320.28; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.981, 325.22; 4. John Force, Camaro, 3.991, 325.22; 5. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.017, 322.27; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.032, 314.61; 7. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.044, 315.27; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.101, 308.57; 9. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 4.143, 313.95; 10. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.148, 279.73; 11. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.198, 298.21; 12. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.258, 304.67; 13. John Smith, Camry, 4.302, 277.66; 14. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.997, 185.92; 15. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 5.409, 152.64; 16. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 6.489, 101.17. Not Qualified: 17. Shawn Langdon, 6.512, 106.74; 18. Cruz Pedregon, 10.971, 44.80.

PRO STOCK: Class did not race due to rain.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Matt Smith, Victory, 6.866, 195.39; 2. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.899, 193.24; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.911, 194.58; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.915, 192.85; 5. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.917, 195.39; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.929, 190.92; 7. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.938, 196.64; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.938, 194.66; 9. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.952, 193.63; 10. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.954, 193.85; 11. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.975, 195.70; 12. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.990, 191.51; 13. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 7.066, 191.13; 14. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.074, 190.92; 15. Ron Tornow, Buell, 7.158, 188.75; 16. Mark Paquette, Buell, 7.209, 187.29. Not Qualified: 17. Marc Ingwersen, 7.428, 187.29; 18. Joey Gladstone, 12.376, 63.63; 19. Kelly Clontz, broke.