Montoya Comes Up Short in Sonoma

Juan Pablo Montoya

Montoya ran out of fuel coming to the last lap as he ran second. (Photo: Getty Images)

SONOMA, Calif. - Juan Pablo Montoya made it to the finish line Sunday at Sonoma Raceway - problem was it well after everyone else had.

Montoya ran out of fuel coming to the last lap as he ran second. Instead of a strong finish that could have helped him climb in the points, he left with a 34th-place finish after he stopped his powerless car on the start/finish line and walked back to the garage.

“This is what we’ve been doing all year,’’ Montoya said. “We all work together and we’re all trying to do the best we can. We’re not (23rd) in points because we’re not running fast. We’re (23rd) in points because we’ve had a lot of mechanical problems and days like this we throw them away.’’

Marcos Ambrose, another road-course favorite, could relate in a way. His Richard Petty Motorsports team tested at this 1.99-mile course last month. The goal was to win this race and give him a chance for a Wild Card spot in the Chase. Instead, he finished seventh. Now, there will be more meaning on Watkins Glen in August where he has won the past two years. Yet, another win there might not be enough to get Ambrose, 22nd in the points, a Wild Card spot in the Chase.

Still Ambrose’s angst was different from Montoya, who was surprised he ran out of fuel in turn 10 on the next-to-last lap.

“We were in the good,’’ Montoya said he was told. “They said, “Keep going, run hard, as hard as you can, as hard as you want. I was doing that.’’

Why Montoya’s car ran out fuel remained a mystery to the team afterward.

“We don’t know what happened,’’ crew chief Chris Heroy said through a team spokesperson. “We were on the same strategy as (winner Martin Truex Jr.). We’ll go back to the shop and figure it out.’’

As Montoya walked back to the garage, Truex drove by on his way to Victory Lane after ending a six-year winless drought.

“I thought we had a winning car,’’ said Montoya, whose winless streak is 102 races. “I was a little too hard on the car at the end. I killed the tires. To be honest, a disappointing day was going to be second.’’

Instead he was the last car to finish all 110 laps.

Ambrose, who led the opening 18 laps, also made it to the end but didn’t get the ending he wanted.

“The weather cooled down a lot and we just didn’t anticipate that when we set the car up and we just fought it all day, but I’m proud of my team,’’ he said.

“We were pretty good for 10-odd laps, but we couldn’t hold it on the long run. I’m not sure whether I’m too aggressive on the tires or whether I just can’t get the car underneath me, but we just really struggle on the long runs around this place. We have for three years now.’’

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