Montoya captures Richmond pole
RICHMOND — Juan Pablo Montoya and his team needed some time to get up to full speed yesterday. When they did, they ended up winning the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race tonight.
“It’s exciting. We unloaded this morning and it was a bit of a headache getting the car to run at the beginning. It was dragging a lot and when we finally got it rolling, we felt like we had a pretty decent race car,’’ Montoya said after turning a fast lap at 128.639 miles per hour.
“To come here and get it done is exciting.’’
Montoya earned his second No. 1 starting spot of the season, his seventh overall,and the first of his career on a track shorter than a mile. He looks forward to trying to back the effort up under the lights at D-shaped, 0.75-mile Richmond International Raceway.
“If the cars runs somewhere near what it did in practice, we might have a chance,’’ he said.
Regan Smith qualified second, the best starting spot of his career, at 128.352 m.p.h. The young driver has the best average qualifying spot of the season at 7.75, and is confused. “We’ve been qualifying really well this year and I wish I knew why because the past two or three years, I haven’t qualified to save my life,’’ he said.
The good fortune hasn’t continued in races, where he’s finished in the top 10 just once through eight races. He’ll start the event 30th in points, having failed to finish two events.
“It sounds bad to say this, but we’ve just had bad luck this year . . We’re right on the cusp of where we want to be,’’ he said. “Now we’ve got to take that next step with racing.’’
Starting up front at Richmond will be an unusual experience, he added.
“I’ve always started more toward the back,’’ he said. “I hope it’s really important.’’
Clint Bowyer starts third, followed by Kasey Kahne, Hendrick teammates Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, points leader Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, and Paul Menard.
Kahne did his lap despite a right knee that has given him problems since surgery April 18 to repair the meniscus. It was his second surgery on the knee, and he’s still feeling the effects.
In the Nationwide Series race last night, Denny Hamlin made it two wins in two nights at his home track.
Hamlin grabbed the lead for the first time 44 laps in and dominated the rest of the 250-lap race. He lost the lead briefly when he pitted under a green flag, again when Aric Almirola got underneath him after the first restart, and then grabbed it back six laps later for good.
The victory is the 11th of Hamlin’s career in the Nationwide Series and came one night after he passed Kyle Busch on the last lap to win his charity race at the track.