Juan Pablo Montoya made his return to NASCAR Sunday. Wheeling a Ford for his IndyCar Series team owner Roger Penske Montoya entered a NASCAR race for the first time since he left to return to the open wheel series for 2014.
Since his return to the IndyCar Series Montoya has scored three top five finishes in eight races, his best finish coming at Texas a few weeks ago.
Sunday Montoya started 28th but was never a factor.
“We started the race really, really loose and we were not really expecting that based on practice,” Montoya said. “It’s hard because we went from practice to the race without really changing that much and it was awful. We were kind of catching up and we did a good job. I got the lucky dog and we were getting better and then I think we went a little too far with the car at the end, but we’re learning and understanding a little more.”
Montoya said he did learn a few things that he will take with him when he competes in his next NASCAR race, the Brickyard 400 at Indy on July 27th.
“I think so,” Montoya said. “I understand the car a little bit more and how everything works with the team, and where we stand with the setup, so I think that will be pretty useful.”
Sunday was also a day of learning for the three cars of Roush-Fenway Racing. The team was once a definite contender at Michigan. Driver Carl Edwards won here in 2007 and 2008 and Greg Biffle has four wins including a season sweep of both races in 2012. None of the teams former speed was evident Sunday as both Biffle and Edwards struggled the entire day. Add rookie Roush-Fenway driver Rickey Stenhouse Jr. to the list as well.
Amid reports of internal difficulties within the team, none of three Roush entries were ever contenders. Biffle made a brief appearance inside the top ten thanks in large part to pit strategy but finished the day a disappointing 18th.
Edwards fought to stay on the lead lap, but fell behind and finished 23rd; Stenhouse came home 27th two laps down.
“That was a big struggle,” Edwards who was the only driver willing to comment post race said. “It was pretty tough, but we worked hard and didn’t quit. Fortunately, we have a win to get us in the Chase, but we’ve just got to get better as a group. That’s the way it is.”