Sure he was a road-course master, but his prowess for turning right as well as left didn't exactly make him a threat to qualify for the Chase or challenge for a championship. So people, understandably, quit caring. His aggressive driving style had earned some jeers from fans during his rookie campaign in '07, but by the end of last year, most folks couldn't muster the energy for even a couple of lusty boos. The man was a non-factor, an also-ran, a bust.
Well, perhaps it's time to start paying attention to Montoya once again. With the exception of a two-race stretch in Atlanta and Las Vegas, the Rumblin' Colombian has started the year on a tear. His seventh-place finish at Texas two weeks ago moved him to 13th in the Cup standings, ranking him ahead of a slew of Chase veterans, including
What's different? Well, several things: for one, Montoya is behind the wheel of a Chevy instead of a Dodge. More importantly though, he's developed a great relationship with crew chief
What I find interesting in this story is that when he took over as Montoya's crew chief last May, Pattie had "zero" experience with the new car. Of course, save for a couple of races in '07, Montoya was in the same boat. Montoya had struggled mightily as a rookie, not only to learn how to drive machines much heavier and more unbalanced than the ones he had driven in F1, but also to master oval racing. When I sat down with him in August of that year, he told me, "I have no experience on oval tracks whatsoever."
Montoya's progress at the fine art of turning left should now be obvious for all to see. He has mastered ovals both large (he was 14th at Daytona) and small (he was ninth at Bristol and 12th at Martinsville). And as he showed at Texas, he's even good on the in-betweens. He may not yet be a threat to win a Cup, but a trip to NASCAR's postseason is no longer out of the question.
Maybe a Wii boxing competition isn't as much fun to watch as a