It was only a matter of time, and this date has been marked on calendars all season. The NASCAR Nextel Cup Series would make its first of two road-course visits at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA.
And Juan Pablo Montoya would be a threat to win.
He showed the ability to drive the bulky stock cars on a road course earlier in the season during the Busch Series race in Mexico City. Yes, he made contact with teammate Scott Pruett to take the lead and the win, but it could have gone either way.
Today, it was a test of patience and ability. Montoya had a poor qualifying effort, and would start deep in the field—32nd. No one has won a Cup race at Sonoma from further back than 13th. Adjustments to the car resulted in Montoya moving up to the top of the speed charts in the final two practices.
But speed wasn't what the 42 car needed in the end. Fuel was what it needed. The estimates were they may be one to three laps short of going the distance. Kevin Harvick was lurking behind with sufficient fuel to make the distance. His crew told him the 42 would be short, and Harvick would just roll by and on the victory.
Juan Pablo Montoya did what has never been done. He drove from deeper in the field than anyone ever has, managed to keep the car clean, and saved enough gas to win his first career Nextel Cup Series race.
And he still had enough fuel to make it back to Victory Lane. His southern drawl carried out over the radio with his "Hell Yeah" statements after taking the checkered flag. On a day where Robby Gordon would lead the most laps, Tony Stewart would lead, and Jeff Gordon would start 41st and finish seventh, a new name resounded through the wine country of California as winner at Sonoma.
Hell Yeah, Juan... You are The Man!
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