The pressure is off Juan Pablo Montoya to win at Sonoma Raceway, where his road course background has created an expectation for him to win every year.
As he inches closer to finally winning on an oval track, the annual stop at the 1.99-mile road course has become less stressful. Montoya has four top-10s in six career starts at Sonoma, where he won his first career Sprint Cup race in 2007.
“We’ve been running really good on ovals, but I’m excited to come here and see how we run,” Montoya said Friday. “I think it’s exciting to come here because first we’ve got a shot at a win, worst-case scenario we can score a lot of points. We’ve got to make sure we execute and do our things right and see what happens.”
Montoya arrived at Sonoma ranked 22nd in the standings, having made a slow climb behind stronger finishes in the last eight races. He’s got three top-10 finishes and contended for wins at Richmond and Dover.
ELKHART LAKE, Wis.
Nelson Piquet Jr. was surging with confidence after winning the Nationwide race at Road America a year ago, optimistic that his success would lead to a full-time ride in NASCAR’s second-tier series.
Now Piquet returns to the scene of his biggest stock-car racing moment still trying to find his footing on the next rung up the ladder.
“Obviously, I’m frustrated with our results,” Piquet said Friday. “We’re not where I wanted to be.”
Piquet, the first Brazilian to win a race in one of NASCAR’s major national series and the son of a three-time Formula One champion, ended up getting the full-time Nationwide ride he was looking for this year.
Last season, Ryan Hunter-Reay strung together back-to-back wins at Milwaukee and Iowa during a stretch that was crucial in clinching his first IndyCar Series title.
If Hunter-Reay can repeat the Milwaukee-Iowa sweep again this weekend, the defending champion could find himself back in first place in the points chase.
Hunter-Reay heads into Sunday’s race at Iowa Speedway in fantastic form. The win at the Milwaukee Mile last week was Hunter-Reay’s fourth podium finish in five races, and he’s now just 16 points behind series leader Helio Castroneves.
“Knowing that the potential is there is probably the biggest pressure that you can have. That you know you can get it done if you and the team just operate to your full potential,” Hunter-Reay said.
MECHANICAL ISSUE CAUSED CRASH
New Jersey state police said Friday that a mechanical problem was to blame for the dirt-track racing crash that killed NASCAR driver Jason Leffler.
The state police released some findings from a not-yet-complete report on the June 12 crash at Bridgeport Speedway in Logan Township.
The report finds that a torsion stop came off, causing part of the sprint car’s suspension system to become lodged between a wheel and the steering system. As a result, the report found, Leffler was unable to control the car’s steering as he came out of the fourth turn and spun out, slamming into the concrete wall along the side of the track.