Saturday, September 19, 2009

New Hampshire Practice: Montoya Fastest Again, and Again, and Again!

by M Roberts

On Friday Juan Pablo Montoya won his second pole position of the season and also the second of his career. Saturday, Montoya picked up right where he left off during the final practice sessions in preparation for Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Montoya not only led Friday’s early practice geared towards qualifying - then took the pole, but he carried those blazing speeds into Saturday and was fastest in both sessions. In each practice, Montoya was the only driver to pass he 130 mph barrier on a lap. During happy hour he laid down the quickest lap of the day at 130.376 mph.

Montoya brought a brand new chassis this week and with it, became the only driver this season to sweep all three practice sessions prior to any given race, a rarity considering race conditions on separate days and having two different set-ups in race and qualifying trim.

Montoya will look to improve upon his career average of 20th at New Hampshire in the first race of the Chase on Sunday. His 12th place finish In the June race was already a vast improvement over what he did in his first two seasons on the track, and now with the beast of a car he has this week, he should be able to improve upon his best even further.

Kurt Busch is a three time winner in New Hampshire and was very impressive in Saturday’s practices. He was seventh fastest in the early session while running the most laps and then came out in happy hour and was second fastest behind Montoya while running the third most laps. Busch brought the same chassis that a great run in the June race finishing third.

It should come as little surprise that points leader Mark Martin had a great pair of practices because he brought the same chassis that won at Phoenix earlier this year which was also run last week at Richmond finishing fourth.

The correlation between Phoenix, New Hampshire, and Richmond has always been strong over the years with several drivers winning multiple races during a year on those tracks using the same chassis for each. Despite the three tracks being vastly different in configuration, the length and banking make them similar in crew chiefs minds.

Martin’s teammate, Jimmie Johnson, has also been the beneficiary of having dominant rides on all three tracks over his career. He brought the same chassis from June’s race that led the most laps before the rain came. During practice, Johnson showed that his car is just as good now as it was then with the fifth fastest lap in each session while running the most laps of the day.

Martin Truex Jr brought a brand new car, just like his teammate Juan Pablo Montoya and the results were very similar in practice. He was second fastest in the early session and third fastest in happy hour. Loudon has traditionally been one of Truex’s best tracks. His poor finish in June ended a streak of four consecutive top-10 finishes on the track. He’s a great dark horse this week to spoil the Chase party.

Other drivers that had great runs Saturday who aren’t in the Chase were Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Harvick had the ninth fastest lap in happy hour using the same car that was very racey last week in Richmond. The best sign for a good run from Harvick was that he had the third best average times in the final session.

Earnhardt Jr was sixth fastest during happy hour using the same chassis that ran 13th in June’s race. The positive note for Junior is that his car was been able to run completive speeds with the leaders, something hasn’t happened very much in practice for him all season.

Final Practice session (Happy Hour)
1) Juan Pablo Montoya 130.376 mph - AVG 39 laps @ 128.337
2) Kurt Busch 129.843 mph - AVG 61 laps @ 128.035
3) Martin Truex Jr 129.843 mph - AVG 45 laps @ 128.270
4) Mark Martin 129.820 mph - AVG 56 laps @ 128.004
5) Jimmie Johnson 129.758 mph - AVG 67 laps @ 127.955

Second Practice session:
1) Juan Pablo Monyoya 130.131 mph - AVG 33 laps @ 128.208
2) Martin Truex Jr 129.922 mph - AVG 31 laps @ 127.590
3) Mark Martin 129.688 mph - AVG 43 laps @ 128.053
4) David Stremme 129.639 mph - AVG 32 laps @ 126.453
5) Jimmie Johnson 129.595 mph - AVG 46 laps @ 128.037

See the practice page link for complete list of practice times

TOP 10 Rated Drivers for New Hampshire based on Saturday’s practice sessions, current state of team, last weeks Richmond race, with a mix of Phoenix and June’s Loudon race.

1) Jimmie Johnson
2) Juan Pablo Montoya
3) Kurt Busch
4) Mark Martin
5) Denny Hamlin
6) Tony Stewart
7) Martin Truex Jr
8) Jeff Gordon
9) Kevin Harvick
10 Dale Earnhardt Jr

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