THIS WEEK IN NASCAR Montoya still trying to make NASCAR splash

The new season has brought changes for Juan Pablo Montoya. The owners of his No. 42 car, Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates, merged their operation with Dale Earnhardt Inc., creating, along with Teresa Earnhardt, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. This, in turn, changed the make of Montoya’s car from Dodge to Chevrolet. Improvement, so far, has been modest. Montoya’s teammate, Martin Truex Jr., is 19 th in the Sprint Cup point standings. Montoya is 14 th . To make the Chase, Montoya must finish the regular season in the top 12. He’s only 16 points behind the current occupant of 12 th place, Carl Edwards. Montoya, a driver of international renown, is in his third Sprint Cup season. His lone Cup victory occurred on June 24, 2007, at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Montoya was Raybestos Rookie of the Year, but he already had victories in the Indianapolis 500 and the Grand Prix of Monaco on his resume. Now, at 33, he is completely focused on becoming a championship contender in stock cars. “We know where we need to go,” he said. “We know what we need to achieve. I think there are a lot of things in the pipeline that are going to make us a little bit better every week. As long as we keep finding little things, we’ll be fine. “You’ve got to keep finding performance. You cannot sit and hope you are going to run well. We’re [not] doing that. We have good ideas of things we need to do, and it’s just a matter of time to see what happens.” Montoya, from Bogota, Colombia, has three top-10 finishes so far. Surprisingly, two have been on short tracks. He won his first pole at Talladega Superspeedway on April 24. He thinks he’ll be in victory lane again soon, but recognizes the importance of consistency in making the Chase. “That’s the key to making the Chase, and we know that,” he said. “A lot went into putting these teams together. … Phoenix [April 18] was the first step toward getting everybody on the same page. “Truex was competitive. I was competitive. It’s exciting. I think the future of the company looks really, really bright, and it’s positive.” Copyright 2009 King Features Syndicate

Juan Pablo Montoya (Getty Images)