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Archive for Saturday, September 27, 2008

Montoya wins, then loses, pole at Kansas Speedway

September 27, 2008

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— Juan Pablo Montoya thought he was sitting on top of the NASCAR heap this weekend at the Kansas Speedway.

Then, he received notification that he had dropped all the way to the bottom.

Montoya - who initially won his first pole in 66 Sprint Cup Series races Friday - had his lap time of 31.368 seconds disallowed minutes after posting the top spot.

A post-race inspection discovered his car exceeded the maximum gas pressure allowed for the rear shock absorbers. NASCAR rules prohibit any driver from using more than 75 pounds per square inch of nitrogen gas pressure.

Instead, Montoya will start in 42nd position Sunday in the Camping World RV 400.

That means Jimmie Johnson will move up into the pole position. Johnson, the two-time defending Sprint Cup champion, posted a lap speed of just over 172 miles per hour and finished in 31.394 seconds.

Johnson claimed his fifth pole this season and currently sits tied for second place in the Chase, 10 points behind leader Carl Edwards, who qualified 34th.

Mark Martin jumped from third position to second for Sunday's race, while Matt Kenseth went from fourth to third.

After qualifying, Montoya spoke with reporters, not knowing of his reversal of fortunes.

"There's been a lot of things that really frustrated us from really good finishes," Montoya said of a season that found him in 24th place among NASCAR drivers - well out of the Chase race.

"We've changed our cars a lot this year," he continued. "It takes time. ... The engine department keeps finding horsepower over and over again. To know how where we're running now, and to know how much more there is to come from the team in the next few weeks, it's pretty exciting."

Martin noted how strong Montoya had been running in practices and said his earning the pole position was no fluke.

"I was thinking on the way over here, Juan hasn't had the best year, but he's sitting on the pole," Martin said. "And I thought that I've had a really good year, but I've only qualified second five times. I can't get one (pole). He goes up there in one day and gets one."

Little did anyone know that things would change in a hurry.

As for the drivers in the Chase, only Johnson and Kenseth qualified in the top 10 for Sunday's race. The closest any other Chase driver came was the 11th-place run of Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose lap clocked in at 31.628 seconds.

Johnson, for one, seemed thrilled to be in such prime position to take over the Chase points lead.

"It doesn't mean it's a layup this weekend and we're going to pick up points on other Chase competitors," Johnson said, "but every little bit helps. The clean air that we'll have starting on the front row, it's something we can't emphasize enough as drivers - how important that is and how helpful that is."

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