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Montoya Takes Shot, Gives Shot

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 18 2009
The pit crew of Juan Montoya waits on wall to attempt fixes on their driver's car.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The pit crew of Juan Montoya waits on wall to attempt fixes on their driver's car. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Juan Pablo Montoya has been called a lot of things during his driving career. Shy? Not one of those things he’s been called. And certainly not a thing he will be called following Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

After having major blows struck to his car and his hopes for a Cup championship, Montoya let fly with some verbal jabs at non other than four-time champion Jeff Gordon.

Montoya’s chances for winning his first Cup looked decent before Saturday’s NASCAR Banking 500.

The native of Colombia was third in points and only 58 behind leader Jimmie Johnson. Best of all, he had cruised through the first four races of the Chase without incident and with four top-four finishes.

But on Friday, he slipped in qualifying – he was 18th and, hence, back in the pack when the race started.

Montoya’s Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet looked strong in the early going as it made its way toward the front. On lap 100, he was in the top five

But then trouble struck.

On a restart on lap 125, Montoya was involved in a bumping incident and his right rear quarterpanel was damaged. The damage was severe enough to affect the car’s handling abilities and Montoya began falling back.

And back. And back.

Montoya explained what happened on the restart.

“Well they all kind of went and then they checked up and I checked up and I don’t know somebody didn’t slow down and just ripped off the whole rear of the car,” the former Formula One driver and Indy 500 winner, said. “Then I got hit into the car in front of us. I don’t know, just one of those deals. It was weird, actually a lot of things on the race track you could see and the cautions never came out. I think they got criticized last week and I think they went too far this week. It is what it is. Whether you like it or not they are in charge.”

Asked exactly who was responsibile, Montoya fired at Gordon.

“They all accelerated and they all checked up,” Montoya said. “Every time the No. 24 (Gordon) restarted it was the same thing.”

Montoya wound up 35th. He dropped back to sixth in points and will head to Martinsville Speedway for next weekend’s race 195 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, who won Saturday’s race at Lowe’s.

Montoya, one of the season’s great surprise stories, took the setback philosophically.

“Oh, it’s OK,” he said. “It’s racing. If you’re expecting to have ten clean races then you’re dreaming. We knew it could happen and here, always the restarts are an issue and I managed to slow down and I just got hit from behind. It happens.

“We made the Chase and up until today we had four top-five’s in a row and what’s bad about it, you know what I mean. We were actually surprised; everybody on the team is doing such a good job that even today we had a faster car than the No. 48 (Johnson). So, it happens. It’s one of those racing things that will happen and we’ve just got to move on.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 18 2009