Montoya and Johnson could be in store to repeat duel|Montoya wins Brickyard pole

Published 6:23 am Sunday, July 25, 2010

By By Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — The guy who won the 16th Brickyard 400 last year and the guy who had it all but won will never agree on who had the best car in that race.
But they’re in the perfect position to carry over their competition to Sunday.
Juan Pablo Montoya won the pole Saturday with a lap averaging 182.278 mph around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Jimmie Johnson came the closest to knocking him off with a 181.142.
Last year Montoya led 116 of the first 124 laps but was penalized for speeding on pit road, fell into the pack and ended up 11th. That opened the door for Johnson, who won his third title in four years.
‘‘Track position is big and the pit selection is big here,’’ said Montoya, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner. ‘‘We have that and just got to execute right and see what happens.
‘‘The ideal, you get in the lead and lead every lap and go home happy. But to be realistic, one bad restart or one bad pit stop or anything, it puts you a little bit behind and you’ve got to find a way to pass people and you’ve got to be smart about it.’’
That’s what Johnson did last year — pass people — and that’s why the four-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion believes the fastest car did, in fact, win the Brickyard last July.
‘‘The fact that we started 16th and drove up into the battle for the lead, I think shows a lot for what our car did last year,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘Yes, Juan was fast in clean air, but when he got mired in traffic, he couldn’t go anywhere. Not taking a shot at Juan, but I’m really proud of what we did last year.’’
Mark Martin, the teammate whom Johnson ultimately beat, qualified third despite a late draw that put him on the racetrack as it heated up and cars tended to slow down.
Jamie McMurray, Montoya’s teammate, will join Martin on the second row. Nine of the top 10 cars in the lineup are Chevrolets, including all three Richard Childress Racing entries: Clint Bowyer (sixth), 2003 Brickyard winner Kevin Harvick (ninth) and Jeff Burton (10th).
Badgers at the Brickyard: Two-time Brickyard runner-up Matt Kenseth of Cambridge led the three-man Wisconsin contingent. He surprised himself by qualifying 13th and then was ninth-fastest in final practice.
‘‘The speed on the charts is hard to look at; in both practices it was my first lap that we did that fast lap,’’ Kenseth said. ‘‘It feels all right. We had one run today that just on the feel was OK but it was a little slow.’’
Paul Menard of Eau Claire will start 26th after a qualifying lap he called ‘‘sloppy.’’ He was 13th-fastest in the final practice session before jumping into a helicopter to go to O’Reilly Raceway Park in Clermont for the Nationwide Series race.
Travis Kvapil of Janesville qualified 37th and ranked 34th in practice.
‘‘We’ve got a mid-pack car and something that will be competitive,’’ he said. ‘‘If we make the right adjustments throughout the day, I think we can get a good top-20, top-25 finish.’’
Triple threat: Jacques Villeneuve, the 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner, became the second driver after Montoya to have qualified for the 500, the Brickyard and the United States Grand Prix, the three biggest races at the speedway.
‘‘The car was a little bit nervous, but it was quick enough to get in the show,’’ said Villeneuve, the 1997 Formula One champion, who will start 43rd for Braun Racing.
‘‘It was the first time the team has come here, and it was a new car. And I hadn’t been in a Cup car in two years. It was a little bit stressful, but it turned out fine.’’
Interested visitor: Former McLaren Formula One team boss Ron Dennis was at the track. He is working with NASCAR on its plan to bring fuel injection to the Sprint Cup Series as soon as next season.
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