He isn't the first guy you think of when considering chase contenders.
He isn't the first person you think of when you think of great drivers but, he is earning respect.
The experts are picking Jimmie Johnson. They are picking fan favorite Mark Martin. Some say Jeff Gordon will win his fifth. I have heard them make cases for every driver in the chase except Juan Pablo Montoya.
After three full seasons, JPM is finally in the chase. He is ranked 11th right now and has a good chance to take the Sprint cup. He hasn't won alot of races like Mark Martin or led the standings like Tony Stewart but, he has been consistent and fast.
He also may be single- handily saving Earnhardt-Ganassi racing from extinction. Especially since Martin Truex is leaving for MWR next year. Basically leaving the fortunes of EGR on Juan's shoulders.
Judging Montoya on the last couple years, you would think that is alot of pressure for the average running Montoya. He has only one win. He has never won on an oval and never made the chase.
But, things started to come together this year for the former Indy car champion. He's been running up front and nearly won a race at the brickyard 400 if not for a controversial speeding penalty. He was just schooling the entire field all day until he supposedly sped on pit lane.
And to make things more amazing for the Colombian born Montoya, he will be the first non-U.S. born driver ever to qualify for the Chase. He heads into New Hampshire with 12 top ten's, 2 top five's and one pole. He has an average finish of
13.8 this year.
He has raced five times at Loudon with an average finish of 20.6 with no top tens.
He did lead six laps at the one mile flat rack. But stats probably don't mean much with Montoya right now since he's driving out of his mind this year.
The truth is, its impossible to predict if Montoya can make any noise in this years chase. He has simply never run as good and consistently as he is right now. And the obvious fact is, that you don't make the chase by accident.
So, while no one knows how good Montoya can be in this years chase, you can be sure that his opponents will not take him lightly. I personally don't think he can win it all this year. But, number one; I have been wrong before(many times) and number two; he is definitely going to make the other drivers earn their wins...
(Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)