MONTOYA TO BACKUP CAR FOR DAYTONA 500
Montoya Forced to Use Backup Car For Weekend's Daytona 500
By Ralph N. Paulk, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, February 24, 2012
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Juan Pablo Montoya circled the mangled remains of the No. 42 Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on Thursday with inexplicable calm.
Montoya, driving for Fox Chapel native Chip Ganassi, stared at the crushed rims and crumbled metal. He considered kicking the tires but realized it wouldn't be enough to ease the angst of starting Sunday's Daytona 500 with his backup car.
The Colombian's red and white Target-sponsored Chevrolet was part of a multi-car accident in the first of two 60-lap Gatorade Duel qualifying races at Daytona International Speedway.
Montoya, already locked into NASCAR's premier event, was running in the middle of pack when Michael McDowell triggered a four-car crash that claimed three other Daytona 500 qualifiers — David Gilliland, Brad Keselowski and Paul Menard.
"I think the No. 98 (Michael McDowell) wrecked Gilliland, and I was next to him," said Montoya, who finished sixth in last year's Daytona 500. "We were right in the middle. When they started spinning, I just tried to hold it wide open, hoping I could clear them, but I went into the fence."
McDowell wasn't apologetic but shouldered the blame for losing control of his No. 98 Ford halfway through the ninth lap. McDowell's admission was little consolation for Montoya, who by rule will start at the back of the 43-car field after crashing his primary car.
"I don't want to get involved in whose fault it is," Montoya said. "It is part of restrictor-plate racing."
With Montoya in the garage area discussing race setup for his backup, Tony Stewart cruised toward the checkered flag.
"We've had a good car since we've been here," said Stewart, who finished second behind Kyle Busch in the Budweiser Shootout last Saturday. "The organization did a good job of getting this car ready."
Stewart, the defending Sprint Cup champion, won his 17th stock-car race at Daytona. Dale Earnhardt holds the track record with 34 victories at the 2.5-mile tri-oval.
Matt Kenseth, the 2009 Daytona 500 champion, held off Regan Smith and Jimmie Johnson to give Roush Fenway Racing its first Duel victory in the second qualifying race.
Michael Waltrip and Bill Elliott, both two-time 500 winners, failed to qualify along with Mike Wallace, Kenny Wallace, J.J. Yeley and Robert Richardson Jr. Joe Nemechek, David Stremme and Dave Blaney were the last of the drivers not locked into the Daytona 500 to qualify.