Tune in this Sunday for the running of the Daytona 500 (coverage begins at noon on Fox) and see whether this is the year Juan Pablo Montoya pilots the number 42 Target Chevrolet to victory.
The odds aren’t in Montoya’s favor as he has run 10 races at the 2.5 mile Daytona track for a total of 1,737 laps, but had an average finishing position of 19th. In fact, if Montoya were to take the checkered flag at NASCAR’s biggest race it would be a real shocker because he has been in victory lane only twice out of 181 starts in the NASCAR championship series known as the Spring Cup. Neither of those victories came last year although Montoya did finish in the top five twice and the top 10 eight times.
This year could be different. Montoya has a new crew chief in Chris Heroy, who joins the team from Hendrick Motorsports where he was an engineer. Another variable in play in winning at Daytona involves avoiding a crash announcers refer to as “the big one,” because of the number of cars involved due to the high speeds and bumper to bumper style of racing common at Daytona and other large tracks.
Montoya does a good job of staying out of trouble, so at least he is in position to win at the end of races. In 10 starts at Daytona, he has avoided the big one more often than not and managed to finish eight of the races. His claim to fame last year was that he finished every race he started and ran a total of 10,593 laps, the most of any driver.
Those who miss the race shouldn’t feel bad. The NASCAR season is looooonnngggg! A total of 36 races are run over the course of 10 months before an overall champion is determined through the accumulation of points awarded by finishing position and laps led. The system is designed to create drama – which translates to viewership – and promote the notion that every race matters so that a champion isn’t determined until the final race is run November 18 in Homestead, Fla.