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Montoya gaining ground, respect in Cup ranks – NASCAR News – FOX Sports on MSN

Montoya gaining ground, respect in Cup ranks

by Rea White, NASCAR Scene, FOXSports.com

Rea White says.”–>

Updated: October 16, 2009, 10:41 AM EDT


Juan Pablo Montoya and his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team must be in a state of disbelief. After all, they’ve posted the highest average finish in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup with a pair of third-place finishes and a worst of fourth, yet they are losing ground.

Rea White Read Rea White’s blog–> (NASCAR Scene)

How can that be possible? Well, Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson has won two of those races, matched Montoya with a fourth-place finish in one and has a worst finish of ninth.

But Montoya is taking it in stride.

Since making his first Chase this season, the Earnhardt Ganassi driver has proved to be relatively unflappable. He’s calm when questioned, expresses confidence in his team and its potential but brings a realistic level of expectation to the Chase. While it’s certainly possible for Montoya to win the title this season — he’s currently third in the standings and 58 points behind Johnson — the driver is maintaining his focus on continuing to learn about the series and help his team improve. And he’s enjoyed an unexpected dividend in recent weeks. It seems that Montoya has caught the eye of the men he’s battling for the title and is garnering an increasing amount of respect from them.

Montoya, in just his third full season of Cup competition after an open-wheel career that included an Indianapolis 500 victory and a stint in Formula One, has gained substantial ground on his fellow Cup drivers throughout this season. Since the Chase started, he has posted his top finishes of the season and become a regular contender for the win.

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