Juan Pablo Montoya was not disappointed to have lost another clear shot at his first oval win in the Sprint Cup Series, finishing second after setting the pace for most of the weekend at Loudon.
The Colombian led the most laps during the first race of the Chase at New Hampshire, which he had started from pole position after setting a new track record in qualifying, something he backed up with the fastest time in every practice session.
During the race, the Earnhardt Ganassi driver set the pace early on but his speed was not as good in the second half of the long green-flag stints. Despite recovering the lead twice in the pits after losing it on the track, he couldn't get his car to handle as he wanted in the second half of the race.
His strategy in the end dropped him down the order but he was able to recover with strong restarts in the closing stages to challenge leader Mark Martin in the final sprint of the race.
"We started really good, really strong," said Montoya. "Like the first 30 laps or 40 laps of the run, we were the fastest car, then it seemed to go away; we just got really tight. Tried to work on it, couldn't really do too much.
"At the end we took four tires pretty late. I thought, ooh, not the right call, P11, P12, and then we restarted at P9 or P10 or something like that. I passed a ton of cars every restart, like three or four cars every restart, and I got to Mark [Martin]. "
"I thought I had him. I was running beside him, I was like, I think I'm losing power but I think I can get enough just to the line. He cleared me coming out of [Turn] 4, and then when he went to 1 and 2 he just stopped on the bottom.
"It's okay. I didn't expect that. I was expecting him to run pretty hard. He just ran very defensively, and I just got caught by surprise."
Montoya said despite his pace he was not disappointed by his second place finish as he thought once he completed his last stop he was so far down the order that there was not going to be any chance for him to fight for victory.
"If you go back to like 30 laps from the end and you look and see us running 12th and being able to pick up 11 places or 10 places in, I don't know, 20 laps, I wouldn't be pissed off. I'm more than happy. I thought, man, I'm running 12th and I see Kurt and Denny and the 48, the 5 ahead of me, the 24. I'm like, this sucks.
"And all of a sudden it's like boom, boom, boom. I had two good restarts. That's all it takes. We were very good on the restarts. We're all out here. There's no prisoners. We're not taking any prisoners."
The 34-year-old had lost what looked to be a clear win at Indianapolis earlier this year when he was penalized by speeding on pitroad. This time victory was within reach once again but despite not winning he says there is no pressure for him to do so. He believes if he keeps running as he is, a win will eventually come.
"I mean, what's the pressure? We made the Chase. From now on, anything about that, it's a balance," said Montoya. "To come here, first Chase race, put on the pole, finish [second]. Can I ask for anything else? Not really. A win would be nice, but that will come."
Montoya currently ranks fourth in the Chase, the highest he has ever been in the Sprint Cup standings in his three years of competing in NASCAR's top division.