By admin | May 2, 2011
By Richard Allen
Juan Pablo Montoya has never won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on an oval track so when he qualified on the pole for Saturdayâ€™s race at the Richmond International Raceway he had to feel very good about his chances to end that winless steak.
After leading the first 25 laps of the race, however, things started to go astray for the Colombian racer. His carâ€™s handling seemed to faulter and Montoya fell back through the pack.
Just after lap 100, Ryan Newman was challenging Montoya for position. When Newman moved outside as the cars entered the backstretch Montoya moved up the track, clipping the nose of Newmanâ€™s car. Montoyaâ€™s machine veered right and into the outside retaining wall, causing significant damage to the rear of the #42 car.
Later on, Montoya moved down into the right rear of Newmanâ€™s car as the two raced into turn three in what appeared to be a retaliatory move. Newman spun and backed against the wall which in turn caused damage to his car.
There is little question about the second incident between the two. Montoya clearly got into Newman, whether on purpose or not, that one was Montoyaâ€™s fault. But if it was on purpose, was it justified?
The earlier brush is the one in question. No doubt, Montoya moved up into Newmanâ€™s path as Newman was quickly moving to the outside with a run. However, that does not really answer the question of who was at fault, if anyone was.
Some might see it as Montoyaâ€™s fault for moving up as Newman approached with a head of steam. Those who saw it this way might argue that it was Montoya who moved up and clipped the nose of another car, thus he wrecked himself by not allowing room for the other car to maneuver.
It could also be argued that every driver on the track must be aware of who they are racing against and Montoya should have been aware it was Newman who was to his outside and that driver is well known for not giving an inch at any stage of the race. So, it might be said, Montoya should have allowed more room to the outside because it was Newman who was approaching.
And, of course, there is always the opportunity to consider whether Montoya even knew Newman was out there. If the spotter for the #42 car did not give ample warning perhaps Montoyaâ€™s move can not be blamed solely on him.
While some may have seen Montoya at fault, it could be just as easy place the blame on Newman. The simple way of looking at it from this perspective is to say that Newman was the driver who was moving his car to the outside and could see what was going on in front of him. So, he could have just as easily let off for a split second, allowed Montoya to move up and then passed him in the next turn.
Those who would blame Newman might say that on lap 395 not giving an inch is acceptable but barely one-fourth of the way through the event a little give and take would have been in order.
More than the placing of blame in the who wrecked who debate, the real issue at hand for both drivers is that the issue was not settled on Saturday night in Richmond. There was already a history between the two before this race as they have had on-track disputes before. And based on the way this one ended, or rather didnâ€™t end, it is almost certain there will be future run-ins between them.
It was reported that Newman had said he would be seeing Montoya after the race. With their trucks parked only two spaces apart, it would have seemed a certainty that there would indeed be a post-race confrontation. However, that was not the case. Montoya got out of his car and headed for the motor coach lot on a golf cart while Newman made his way to the NASCAR hauler.
With the proliferation of crew members, media and PR people surrounding drivers in the NASCAR garage area it might have been difficult for them to have met up anyway. But they should have tried anyway. In the future when one or both is parked in some garage area with a damaged race car they might consider that a few exchanged words or whatever might have been better than allowing a feud to simmer.
Ultimately, the lap 108 incident could best described by the old adage of â€˜six of one and a half-dozen of the otherâ€™. The real fault was in not getting the issue settled then and there.
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