Rubbing is racing but Juan Pablo Montoya had none of it Saturday night in Richmond. Never known to back down, Montoya was out for revenge after contact with Ryan Newman sent his pole-winning car to pit road for repairs and an eventual 29th place finish.
[media-credit name=”Barry Albert” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]The two got together on the backstretch on lap 106 after Newman got into Montoya’s right rear. It bounced the No. 42 off the wall and damaged the right quarter panel and spoiler. Upon returning to the track, Montoya went in search of Newman to return the favor and the Stewart-Haas Racing driver knew it was coming telling his team “it’s not cool.”
On lap 236 Montoya succeeded and Newman suffered damage to the left side and rear of his No. 39 Chevrolet. NASCAR did not black flag Montoya nor called him to the hauler for the obvious payback, instead telling him to steer clear of Newman the remainder of the race. When the checkered flag flew Montoya hightailed it out of the track, avoiding reporters and Newman who went to NASCAR for an explanation.
Fireworks were expected, media were in place as well the cameras after Newman stated during the race things would be taken care of outside the car. Instead everyone was left with nothing more than seeing what was once a hot ballon slowly deflate instead of explode. Short track racing at its best as tempers flared but there was no expected confrontation. It would be easy to pass off Montoya’s actions as just the repercussions of racing on a short track, but there’s a little more too it.
First, it’s not the first time Newman and Montoya have had a disagreement over track space. But it was seeing Montoya leave without confronting Newman that was much different than the Montoya seen in the past. In 2007 at Watkins Glen he got out of the car during the race and engaged in a discussion with Kevin Harvick, which turned to shoving and helmet pulling, after the two spun in turn one. Harvick said at the time it seems Montoya is running over someone every week.
At Homestead in 2009, he repaid Tony Stewart from early in the race when the two went door-to-door. The hit was again blatant and obvious, much like what occurred Saturday night. He’s not afraid to insult others, even his own teammate as he did last year at Las Vegas, or go at it with his pit crew and crew chief. Montoya can get as red hot as the color of his Target Chevrolet.
His competition is well aware of it too. They know what they’re getting into when they go head-to-head with Colombian. But whether Montoya was justified in feeling angry about the contact from Newman it doesn’t mean he has much sympathy.
Third place finisher Kasey Kahne normally isn’t aware of other on track action unless it’s around him. Kahne though, said Saturday night in regards to the incident that things are going to happen in this sport and a driver just needs to be strong and focus on getting what points he can.
Montoya has only made the Chase once in his NASCAR career, 2009. During that season his crew chief had to continually remind him about the big picture. He’s more of a here-and-now type driver and wants to get what he can, when he can and forget about the rest. If that means he has to ruffle a few feathers then so be it, he’s here to win not make friends.
Montoya is in a position to make the Chase early in the 2011 season. He sits ninth in points following his finish in Richmond with four top 10s in the first nine races. Actions though like on Saturday could end up costing him later in the season not only in terms of the Chase but he still searches for his first win on an oval.
There’s no room for repaying every driver who rubs him the wrong way. Whether it’s Newman or champions like Stewart, Jeff Gordon or telling Mark Martin he needs driving lessons, Montoya isn’t going to back down and neither will his competitor’s opinion’s of his racing style.
“I watch the screen,” said second place finisher Denny Hamlin when asked if he had seen the incident.
“I don’t like it. Every time Montoya has damage and you see who did it, they usually end up getting wrecked,” he continued. “You usually know that’s coming. You have to realize, Montoya, I like him, I think he’s a helluva driver but you can’t wreck everyone every time you get in an accident. Accidents happen. Guys make mistakes. Why hold grudges?”
More importantly said Hamlin “Makes it tough to get in the Chase, too.”