Montoya claims first Sprint Cup short-track pole at Richmond
By Nate Ryan, USA TODAY
Richmond, Va. — Juan Pablo Montoya earned the first short-track pole position of his Sprint Cup career, bumping Regan Smith out of the top spot in qualifying Friday at Richmond International Raceway.
Montoya will start first on the 0.75-mile oval for the seventh time in his Cup career. His previous poles had come at Talladega (twice), New Hampshire (twice), Indianapolis and Fontana, Calif. All of his poles have come since 2009 when the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver made the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Montoya said qualifying first at Richmond meant more than at Talladega (where the quality of the car plays a bigger role than the talent of a driver).
"You have to drive the hell out of a car," he said. "You have to drive the same way on a mile and a half, and I find it harder on a mile and a half than a shorter track, because the chances of losing a car is smaller. You can hustle the car a little more here (at Richmond)."
Ultimately, though, the no-nonsense veteran of Formula One and IndyCar said he'd prefer to excel on every track
"Whatever gives a nice trophy," he said. "I really don't care. To go for the championship, you've got to run well everywhere."
Smith qualified a career-best second in the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, his fifth top-five start in the past eight races.
"I wish I knew why, the past two to three years I couldn't qualify to save my life," Smith said. "The key for us is to translate it to the race. We've had good cars with bad luck and weeks. We're right on the cusp of taking that next step.
Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin rounded out the top five in qualifying for Saturday's Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400.
Denny Hamlin, who won last fall's race at RIR, qualified 11th, and Kyle Busch will start 20th Saturday. The Joe Gibbs Racing teammates have won the past four Cup races at RIR.