WATKINS GLEN — Backing up last weekend’s effort at Pocono Raceway, Juan Pablo Montoya set fast time in Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying at Watkins Glen International.
Montoya, the 2010 winner here, set a track record with a lap of 69.438 seconds (127.020 mph). He’ll start first in today’s Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen.
Kyle Busch will share the front row. Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and defending race champion Marcos Ambrose round out the first five.
“Lap was a good lap,” Montoya said. “Always make mistakes here and there; never perfect. Went too far here, too little there ... but it’s about how well you put it all together, and we did pretty well with that.”
Montoya said the car was good leading up to qualifying, but the team faced some adversity. First, they repaired an oil leak Saturday morning. Then, Montoya missed a half-hour of practice while changing out a radiator.
“We’ve been good all week,” Montoya said. “We’ll see what it brings us. We think we can contend. A few guys are really strong. You have to run your race and save the brakes.”
“Juan, he’s always a threat here,” Busch said. “We’ll have to see how the start and everything goes. He’ll be itching to run hard out of the gate. We want to set a pace and get a rhythm going, stay on track, not overwork the brakes and run the full race on the asphalt. At the end, try to capitalize.”
Busch is hoping to add a second Watkins Glen victory to his résumé, having prevailed here four years ago.
“Our lap was good,” Busch said. “We got a little loose in a couple corners. That might have been the hindrance of what kept us from sitting on the pole. We’ll try to work on keeping track position. At least we can see the front.”
Marcos Ambrose will share row 3 with Ryan Newman. Tony Stewart rolls off seventh, inside of Clint Bowyer, who won a road race in California earlier this season. Jeff Gordon will start 12th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. r16th.
The Nationwide Series grid included NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars like Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, but there weren’t alone as “outsiders.” Several international racing stars were among the 43-car field.
Canadian Ron Fellows started 15th in the Canadian Tire JR Motorsports No. 5. A threat to win, Fellows placed fifth, just edging Busch at the start-finish line.
Fellows’ countrymen, Daryl Harr and Dexter Stacey, were scored 30th and 32nd in the final rundown. Brazilian Miguel Paludo started 14th and finished 13th; Victor Gonzalez, from Puerto Rico, started and finished 16th; and Venezuelan Alex Popow was 38th after beginning in 17th.
Hornish doubling up
One of many drivers racing both weekend events is newly named full-timer Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish inherited the No. 22 Team Penske Shell-Pennzoil Racing Dodge after AJ Allmendinger was released following a suspension stemming from a positive result of a banned substance.
“Racing in both series is beneficial for sure,” Hornish said. “We did it in 2008, so it’s not a new experience.”
Hornish, who has made three previous appearances in today’s race, will start 17th.
Saturday morning, Hornish qualified on the pole for the Nationwide Series’ 18th annual Zippo 200, besting Carl Edwards and Paul Menard.
“I really like racing on road courses, but we’ve just not had much good luck on those tracks,” Hornish said. “I really like Watkins Glen.”
Sahlen’s DP team
In a long-awaited announcement, Sahlen’s announced the formation of a new Daytona Prototype team to run the Rolex Sports Car Series in 2013.
Sahlen’s has been involved in sports-car racing for 10 years. Joe Sahlen called it a natural progression.
“We had to assess situation as a team, as we went through spring time, we looked at dynamics in the classes, top to bottom,” Sahlen said. “We had to see what fit best, where Sahlen team was, and where the brand wanted to be so far as marketing.”
On the track, Ryan Dalziel teamed with Lucas Luhr to win Saturday’s Continental Tire 200 for Daytona Prototypes. Bill Auberlen, Paul Dalla Lana and Billy Johnson topped the GT class and wound up eighth overall.