Juan Pablo Montoya Returns to the Brickyard

This week NASCAR and Juan Pablo Montoya return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 21st running of the Brickyard 400. Montoya will be driving the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Ford for Penske Racing.

The historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a 2.5 mile relatively flat rectangular track. There are 9 degrees of banking in each of the four turns and 0 degrees in the straights. Sometimes it is referred to as an oval track, but it is really more like a rectangle since there is a small amount of straight away between turns 1 & 2 and turns 3 & 4.  The race is 160 laps, or 400 miles.

Indianapolis, more than any other speedway, races like it is a road course. Passing is difficult and usually comes from a driver setting up the pass via hitting his marks in the corner. The crew chief also has a part in running the race backwards, pitting for tires and fuel at the last time before the end of the race. The team that performs perfectly during the race, has great track position, and makes that last pit stop at the right time will win this race.

The driver ratings for Indianapolis feature the usual suspects. No surprise here. Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with a great rating of 109.8 followed by Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon at 104.1 and102.0, respectively. Next on the list is Juan Pablo Montoya at 96.7.

All four of these drivers would be a good pick for your Fantasy NASCAR racing but Juan Pablo Montoya is racing in an additional Penske Racing car. He is not racing for points this year. He is simply racing for a win.

Juan Pablo Montoya leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Indianapolis with a 6.429. This is very important at Indianapolis where track position is king.

Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are both going for their fifth Brickyard 400 win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In 2009 Montoya was leading the race when he was caught speeding on pit road during the last pit stop. He essentially gave away a sure win. In 2010 he lost the lead on pit road due to pit strategy, over drove the car to get it back and crashed with 15 laps to go in a car that was sure to win.

I don’t know if Indianapolis owes me a win, but I probably deserve to have one by this point. I’ve run really well there in my Cup career, but I just wasn’t able to close the deal.” Montoya added, “Maybe I was just waiting to win for Roger Penske. If I could be the driver to win for him it would just be another ‘thank you’ to him for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to race for him. The Team Penske Fords have been very fast this year. It’s been awesome to watch Brad and Joey this year.

With the way the Penske cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have been running, Montoya will have one of the better cars he has had in a long time. With his road racing ability at a speedway that races like one, Montoya has the confidence going here unlike at any other racetrack.

Montoya said, “Absolutely. First off, I’m always confident that I can win. But it’s obvious that the Team Penske cars are the class of the field right now. I have one race under my belt with crew chief Greg Erwin and the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental team, so we are a little familiar with each other. We had good speed in that first race at Michigan and I think we should be even better after taking what we learned there and applying it to the car we are bringing this weekend. It’s exciting to be back in the Cup Series for another weekend. Hopefully we can cap it off with a win.

If you cannot get to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at The Brickyard, it will be shown on ESPN at 1 PM ET Sunday July 27th. 2014.

John Wayne Walding served in the United States Army for 12 years. He was involved in a fire fight during a mission in Afghanistan. As a decorated veteran and NASCAR fan he is being honored by Crown Royal during this race.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 288548 Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Indianapolis
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 109.8
Tony Stewart……………………….. 104.1
Jeff Gordon………………………… 102.0
Juan Pablo Montoya………………. 96.7
Kyle Busch…………………………… 96.5
Kasey Kahne………………………… 96.4
Matt Kenseth………………………… 95.8
Greg Biffle……………………………. 94.6
Kevin Harvick………………………… 90.2
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 88.3
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Chase Elliott and the NAPA Team Get Their Jobs Done at Chicagoland

The NASCAR Nationwide Series and Chicagoland Speedway had the spotlight this week since the Sprint Cup and Truck Series were off. The series regulars did not disappoint. Chase Elliott had never raced at Chicagoland Speedway but he sure did learn quickly.

Brian Scott won the Coors Light Pole Award and led the field to the green flag in the EnjoyIllinois.com 300. He proceeded to lead the first 20 laps until he and his team started being too aggressive in their changes to the car.

Chase Elliott started the race third and drove to the front leading the race from lap 21 to 50. He gave up the lead to pit. The rest of the race Elliott was only outside the top three during pit stops. The team was the second best team on pit road and pitted only three times.

Just a really solid effort you know, we talked about it as a team this afternoon. We all need to just do our job.  We all have a job on a race team and I feel like if we all completed our task to the best of our ability. I feel like we can have a good night.” Elliott added, “Fortunately everyone did that. So very proud of our effort this evening and I hopefully we can do this again in the future.

Part of everyone doing their job was Elliott’s Crew Chief Greg Ives setting about a plan prior to the race and sticking to it.

Greg Ives said, “It’s one of those things where you break down the race into using your fuel, your fuel window. It kind of breaks down on the first green flag run you’ll be 10 to 15 laps into your window already. Tires are a big deal so you kind of just break it down. It gets a green flag feel to it and we decided that we have not been getting the best fuel millage lately. I decided that we would go after fast pit stops and put tires on and make enough time up that way. That’s more or less the strategy to try to be the aggressor this week.   There’s times when you’re going to have to stretch it a little bit but this week to win the race and do what we wanted to do I felt like that was our best strategy.

Chase Elliott, Greg Ives and the whole NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet team did their jobs just like they planned and won the race. They led on four occasions for 85 of 200 laps, the most of any team.

Chase Elliott now leads the Nationwide Series standings by seven points over Regan Smith. Elliott was also the highest finishing rookie.

Brian Scott finished sixth and as the highest finishing Nationwide Series Regular won $100,000.00 Dash4Cash. The drivers in addition to Brian Scott eligible for next week’s Dash4Cash at Indianapolis are Chase Elliott, Trevor Bayne, and Ty Dillon.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 300022 Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Brian Scott Won the Pole for the Nationwide Race at Chicagoland Speedway

The NASCAR Nationwide Series is at Chicagoland Speedway for the EnjoyIllinois.com 300. Brian Scott improved his time in each round of knock out qualifying earning the Coors Light Pole Award.

In the first round Brendan Gaughan brushed the wall. The team decided to fix the damage to continue qualifying in hopes of getting a good pit stall. He qualified ninth but will start the race from the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments during qualifying.

Brian Scott driving the No. 2 Shore Lodge Chevrolet led the first practice on Friday but was out gunned when drivers went out to make mock qualifying runs in the final practice posting only a 11th fastest lap.

In the first round of qualifying Scott posted a lap of 175.884 MPH which was good enough for seventh. In the second round of qualifying he moved to the provisional pole with a much faster lap of 177.212 MPH. In the third and final lap he improved further to capture the Coors Light Pole Award with a lap of 177.807 MPH.

This is Brian Scott’s fourth pole, his second at Chicagoland Speedway. He posted his first pole here in September of 2011.

Ty Dillon, his teammate, qualified on the outside pole and is the highest qualifying rookie.

Brian Scott is a Dash4Cash driver eligible to win $100,000.00 if he is the highest finisher of the four Dash4Cash drivers. They will start Elliott Sadler 7th, Chris Buescher 13th and Regan Smith 15th.

The rest of the top ten are car #3 Ty Dillon, #9 Chase Elliott, #20 Erik Jones, #5 Kasey Kahne, #54 Sam Hornish Jr., #11 Elliott Sadler, #22 Ryan Blaney, #62 Brendan Gaughan, #33 Cale Conley.

If you cannot get to Chicagoland Speedway it will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Saturday July 19th at 8 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: Brian Berg Jr. BehindPitRow.com

Chicagoland Speedway enjoyIlinois.com 300 Nationwide Practice Notes

The NASCAR Nationwide Series has the Spotlight this weekend at the Chicagoland Speedway for the enjoyIllinois.com 300. In preparation for Saturday night’s feature event they had two practice sessions.

The first practice session was 50 minutes. It just so happened to be at about the same time of the day that qualifying will be held tomorrow. Some teams appeared to just make a few qualifying runs and others make multiple runs.

Dash4Cash driver Brian Scott in the No. 2 made only five laps at the start of practice. That was enough to be the fastest at 172.806 MPH. Chris Buescher in the No. 60, also a Dash4Cash driver, ran 21 laps and was second fastest at 172.623 MPH. The rest of the top ten speeds are below.

Also of note current Nationwide Series point leader Regan Smith in the No. 7 was 15th fastest at 170.154 ran only 8 laps. Elliot Sadler in the No. 11, who is the runner up, was 14th at 170.557 MPH. Both are also Dash4Cash drivers.

Harrison Rhodes replaced Jeffery Earnhardt in the No. 4 car. Earnhardt has been nursing a broken collar bone. Earnhardt had all but lost the car in the first practice and in saving the car must have realized that he is not 100%. Rhodes was at the track just in case this happened. It was unclear if they will make this change for the race.

The second practice started with most teams making runs in race trim. In fact many teams looked like they were racing one another based on their close quarters on the track. In the last half of practice some teams were making mock qualifying runs in race trim. Needless to say the leaderboard of lap times changed drastically from the first half of practice until the end.  Most of the top ten were from mock qualifying runs.

Cale Conley in the No. 33 led the second practice at 175.262 followed by Brendan Gaughan in the No. 62 at 174.961. Both drivers appeared to make mock qualifying runs. The rest of the top ten speeds are below.

None of the Dash4Cash drivers made the top ten. Brian Scott led them all 11th at 172.667 followed by Elliott Sadler at 172.557. In addition Chris Buescher was 16th at 171.909 followed by Regan Smith at 171.636.

Qualifying is Saturday July 19th at 4:10 PM ET. It will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2. It will be interesting to see how those drivers who were fast during practice but did not make mock qualifying runs will fare.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: Brian Berg Jr. BehindPitRow.com

First Practice Top Ten
2 Brian Scott 172.806
60 Chris Buescher 172.623
9 Chase Elliott 172.568
62 Brendan Gaughan 172.342
42 Kyle Larson 171.81
54 Sam Hornish Jr. 171.723
5 Kasey Kahne 171.396
16 Ryan Reed 171.238
3 Ty Dillon 171.189
6 Trevor Bayne 171.086
Second Practice Top Ten
33 Cale Conley 175.262
62 Brendan Gaughan 174.961
3 Ty Dillon 174.848
6 Trevor Bayne 174.447
16 Ryan Reed 174.402
20 Erik Jones 174.064
9 Chase Elliott 173.561
39 Ryan Sieg 173.321
99 James Buescher 172.999
22 Ryan Blaney 172.822


The Nationwide Series has the Spotlight This Weekend at Chicagoland

The NASCAR Nationwide Series and Chicagoland Speedway have the spotlight this week. The Sprint Cup and Truck Series are off. This week is the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway and the Nationwide Series is going to shine.

The Chicagoland Speedway is a 1.5 mile D shaped oval with 18 degrees of banking in the corners, 11 degrees in the front stretch and 5 degrees on the back stretch. Racing at Chicagoland is not as fast as the other 1.5 mile tracks that have more banking, but it still is fast. The races at Chicagoland are sometimes won by having good fuel mileage. A good handling race car is not only fast but will get good fuel mileage. This could be a factor in this race.

When analyzing on who will be good here via driver ratings we have to note that we do have one Cup driver interloper, Kasey Kahne, who has limited Nationwide Series stats at Chicagoland. Kyle Larson is also a Cup interloper but he is a rookie in the Cup series, and not in Nationwide.

When looking at the driver ratings, Sam Hornish Jr. seems to have the field covered with a rating of 115.8 over Brian Scott’s rating of 95.1. Remember these ratings, unlike Cup ratings, do not have the same number of races contained in the statistic. In this case it doesn’t really matter. The number 54 car has won four out of 17 races this year including one by Hornish with an average finish of fourth.

However, Hornish needs to worry about hot shoe Kyle Larson and previous Chicagoland winner Elliott Sadler, not to mention Kasey Kahne. Other cars to watch would be those JR Motorsports cars of #7 Regan Smith and #9 Chase Elliott. Ryan Blaney, in last year’s winning car—the #22—will also have a shot at winning.

Sam Hornish Jr’s teammate Erik Jones, who won his first Camping World Truck race last weekend, will be making his first Nationwide Series race this weekend and will also be someone to watch.

This race is one of the Dash4Cash races where an eligible driver can win a $100,000 bonus. The eligible drivers are #7-Regan Smith, #2-Brian Scott, #60-Chris Buescher, and #11-Elliott Sadler. The one who finishes the highest will win the Cash. Regan Smith won the cash last week and is eligible to win an additional $600,000 if he wins the next three Dash4Cash races (Chicagoland, Indianapolis, Iowa).

If you cannot get to Chicagoland Speedway it will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Saturday July 19th at 8 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 288276 Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images

Top 10 Driver Rating at Chicagoland Speedway

Car# Driver Average Finish Driver Rating
54 Sam Hornish Jr. 4.8 115.8
2 Brian Scott 9.9 95.1
11 Elliott Sadler 15.7 94.3
6 Trevor Bayne 13.3 91.1
42 Kyle Larson 22 84.8
99 James Buescher 15 81.5
19 Mike Bliss 15.8 79.5
5 Kasey Kahne 21.8 79.3
62 Brendan Gaughan 19 77.5
43 Dakoda Armstrong 15 74

Note: Driver Ratings compiled are all over the map for the Nationwide Series since this series is transient in nature.