For Juan Pablo Montoya, the longest lap on Sunday was the penultimate circuit — when he realized the No. 42 Target Chevy was running out of gas.
Amazingly, Montoya wasn’t that disappointed. After completing the final lap and leaving his car at the Sonoma Raceway start-finish line, he waved to the crowd on his walk back to the garage.
“I thought we had a winning car until the end,” Montoya said. “I was a little too hard on the tires (that last run). I killed the tires. To be honest, a disappointing day was going to be second. We took a second and made it into a 34th-place finish — again.”
Montoya, who qualified 13th, never led a lap. Although he ran second for the last 20 laps of the Toyota/Save Mart 350, with winner Martin Truex Jr. maintaining more than a five-second lead over Montoya, he was well aware that nothing short of a miracle would land him in Victory Lane.
Montoya was never told to conserve fuel by his team in the closing laps. He was on the same pit cycle as Truex, with both the No. 56 and 42 pitting during the fifth caution on Lap 69. But while Truex drove to Victory Lane, Montoya walked back from the racetrack.
“They actually told me to go hard,” Montoya said. “They told me to go after the 56 as hard as I could, and I was trying to do that. I was running as hard as the car would give me and just ran out of gas.
“When they calculate the race, a lot of the race we’re usually in traffic. When you’re in traffic, you’re not running as hard as you can. In clean air, you’re going to use more fuel. Today, we missed it by a lot."
For Montoya, who posted four top-15 finishes in the last seven events before Sonoma, his 34th-place finish is his worst result since Auto Club Speedway in March when he finished 38th. He dropped one position in the point standings to 23rd and trails leader Jimmie Johnson by 202 points. Montoya is 82 points out of the Chase.
Still, Montoya was somewhat encouraged by the team’s performance before running out of gas.
“Fuel mileage is what you make it,” Montoya said. “We were good. It just happens. It was another good week. We ran good again and threw away a bunch of points again. I’m disappointed more than pissed.”