Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ganassi Team Hopes to Regroup, Salvage Season; Montoya Is Working with His Third Crew Chief of the Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ganassi Team Hopes to Regroup, Salvage Season; Montoya Is Working with His Third Crew Chief of the Year

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE

SONOMA, Calif. - The road course at Infineon Raceway, much like the rest of the racing season, has yet to provide the quick fix Chip Ganassi Racing desperately needed.

The team is at today's Toyota/Save Mart 350 trying to salvage its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

Juan Pablo Montoya, who won last year's race in the Napa Valley hillside, is frustrated. Reed Sorenson was replaced this week by road-racing specialist Scott Pruett, and Dario Franchitti is on his way home after failing to qualify.

"It's been terrible," admitted Steve Hmiel, Ganassi's manager of competition. "We're struggling as an entire group. The drivers aren't happy. We're not happy, and that's great. We don't want our drivers to be happy with the way we're running."

Montoya, who will start 21st today, has been outspoken most of the year. This week, he's working with his third crew chief, and Montoya is 23rd in the standings. A year ago, he started 32nd at Infineon and won with a fuel-mileage gamble. Little has gone right since.

"You know, this season has been so rough on us that I told the guys it would be cool if we have a chance of winning," Montoya said. "If I have a chance of winning, I'm going to take it, like we did before. But it's very important that we get a finish and score good points.

"It's a lot less pressure because you think, 'You win it, great, you won it again.' If things don't come out great, don't win it, you finish third, fourth or fifth, or you get in a wreck, it happens, you know. But the team knows we can do it, and everybody knows we can do it."

Kasey Kahne ran 92.153 mph to win the pole for today's race. Jimmie Johnson is second, followed by Kurt Busch, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Gordon, Elliott Sadler, Marcos Ambrose, Robby Gordon, Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle.

Montoya was more than 1 mph slower than Kahne in Friday's qualifying session.

Pruett, a last-minute replacement for Sorenson, was 27th in time trials.

Franchitti, the defending IndyCar champion, was too slow to make the 43-car lineup.

"It's a bunch of little things," Hmiel said. "We're struggling as an entire group. If we don't do things right now, we'll be behind next year. …

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