Juan Pablo Montoya is not giving up on his goal of making the NASCAR Sprint Cup play-off for the second year in a row, despite being 20th in the standings with 11 races left before the cut.
The Colombian and his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team have shown great speed during the year, but a number of incidents, mechanical issues and lack of consistency during races have both him and his teammate Jamie McMurray well out of the top 12 in the points after 15 of 26 races in the regular season.
A year ago, Montoya had six top-10 finishes arriving at round 16 at Sonoma, the scene of his first and only Cup victory. This year he has scored seven top 10s plus four top 5s - but four DNFs and other poor finishes are weighing hard on his points tally and he has a 189-point deficit to Mark Martin's 12th place in the standings.
"I know for everybody the Chase is a big deal but with seven crashes or DNFs nearly, it's very hard to make the Chase," said Montoya. "But I don't really think about it. We just go out, do the best we can and we know we gotta score big and that's it. We go big or that's it.
"Right now we're trying to go big every week, but it's crazy. You look at last week [at Michigan], we had a great car and at the end we just lost the balance and finished 13th. The weekend before [Pocono] we had a horrible car and finished eighth. That's the way the racing goes."
After Sunday's race at Infineon Raceway where he ranks as one of the favorites, Montoya will go back to Loudon - where he kicked off the Chase in style with a third-place finish from pole. He will then race at Daytona, where his team-mate won the season opener, and then Talladega, where he finished third earlier this year.
"The next few races are pretty good for us, so you just gotta run and see what happens," Montoya said. "I think the Chase is still possible, especially because there are a couple of cars in the top 12 that are not that strong. I know we're quite a way behind but we've just got to give it a try."
Montoya qualified 14th for today's race which will give him his best starting position for the event. He anticipates the closing laps of the race to be wild, something that can potentially affect fuel and tyre strategies.
"I guarantee you're going to see a couple of green-white-checkered attempts," said Montoya. "If you get a caution with like 10 laps to go, from there to the end of the race it's going to be caution, green, caution, green. You're not going to run more than three consecutive green-flag laps!"
Montoya's results at Infineon are the best for him at any NASCAR track, with three top-six finishes in three starts, including his win as a rookie in 2007.