Montoya runs out of gas on last lap at Sonoma
SONOMA, California (AP) — So many things have gone wrong for Juan Pablo Montoya this season that he’s come to expect the unexpected at the most inopportune time.
It came Sunday with one lap to go at Sonoma Raceway, where Montoya was desperately hoping to bank a bunch of points.
Instead, he ran out of fuel while running second and had to coast to the finish line. He wound up 34th in a race he expected to contend for the victory.
“This is what we’ve been doing all year. We all work together and we’re trying to work the best we can, and then days like this, we throw them away,” Montoya said. “A disappointing day was going to be second but we took a second and made it into a 30-something finish again.”
Montoya was miffed because his Chip Ganassi Racing crew never warned him to save fuel, which he could have easily done when he no longer had a shot to catch race-winner Martin Truex Jr. Instead, his gas tank suddenly went dry and he had to coast his way around the massive 1.99-mile (3.2-kilometer) road course.
He wound up inching toward the finish line, where he parked his car, climbed out and made the long walk back to the garage.
“They were telling me to go hard and telling me to go after (Truex) as hard as I could,” Montoya said. “We were in the good. They said ‘Keep going, go hard,’ and that’s what I was doing.
“Then when I came through (turn) 10 coming to the white, the fuel pressure just dropped and I knew I was dead meat.”
Crew chief Chris Heroy was perplexed about the shortage.
“We don’t know what happened — we were on the same strategy as (Truex),” Heroy said through a team spokeswoman. “We’re going to go back to the shop and figure it out.”
Montoya said the team possibly didn’t get the tank full on his final stop, or that the fuel calculations were off based on a number of variables that could have included his pace while in traffic versus his pace in clean air.
“I think we missed it by a lap,” he said.
Montoya has been inching closer to snapping his 101-race winless streak that dates back to Watkins Glen in 2010. After a rough start to the season that saw him stymied by mechanical failures and poor pit stops, he’s rebounded and contended for wins on the ovals at Richmond and Dover.
The road course at Sonoma is always a place he’s considered a contender, and he thought Sunday would be no different. At minimum, he said all weekend, was that his team would get a strong finish that would help him crack the top-20 in points.
“Effort don’t give you points,” he said. “We ran good and threw away a bunch of points again.”