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Montoya Has Message For Haters

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 18 2009
Juan Pablo Montoya, a relative newcomer to NASCAR, says his current series is his favorite series.

Juan Pablo Montoya, a relative newcomer to NASCAR, says his current series is his favorite series.

Let’s see what’s in the Morning Memo today:

Sometimes you need an outsider to properly dope out a particular situation. Sometimes excessive familiarity can leave people jaded toward that situation. Sometimes it takes fresh eyes to see what’s going on in a situation.

Perhaps that was the role Juan Pablo Montoya was performing during last week’s NASCAR teleconference – offering a newcomer’s view about a current NASCAR situation; the situation of an increasingly critical media and fan base when it comes to all-thing Sprint Cup.

Press conferences, teleconferences, one-on-one interviews almost always have an adversarial element to them. There are always questions about troubles and problems and sensitive issues.

Not a darn thing wrong with that. In fact, it is the duty of a free press to take on issues it deems important to the public. Somebody had better do it whether the person being questioned is a president or race-car driver.

Especially during times like these.

Last week, reporters started asking Montoya, a native of Colombia and a relative stock-car-racing newbie, questions which involved the current uber topic in NASCAR – dull racing and plateauing interest.

Montoya, apparently born without the tactfulness gene, was his usual, frank self. Weary of questions which basically ripped everything from NASCAR’s qualifying procedures to Twitter, Montoya made a demand for perspective.

“No, come on,” he said in response to a question about changing qualifying to a Formula One “knockout-style” system. “I think what we’ve got is great.”

He went on to defend NASCAR racing in general, biting away at those who contend that this series and that series and every other series offers far superior products than does NASCAR.

“I’ve been in Formula One,” Montoya said. “I’ve been in IndyCars, I’ve been in CART.  I’ve been in you name it. Grand Am. And the best racing is right here. I’m not saying this because I’m here. I’m saying this because I’ve lived all of them, and nothing compares to this.

“I don’t get it. You know, I understand maybe complaining a lot of times. The Talladega race with people being very conservative and then a huge wreck. But if you go to Talladega, you can expect that. It’s not something new. I don’t know why people complain about it when the racing is so good.

“Like last week was good racing. You know, it was a blast.  A lot of things happened, so it’s very…I don’t understand when people complain about things like that.”


There is plenty to take NASCAR to task for and little hesitancy to do it on the fans’ and media’s part.

And I’ve been one of those people in press conferences trying to steer a driver or a crew chief into a rip job of this rule or that track, all in the name of doing what’s best for the fans.

But, I also got what Montoya was saying: There is still a lot to love in NASCAR. Isn’t there?

Memo to self: Check that bath water very carefully before tossing it out next time.

Young, aggressive drivers have burst onto the NASCAR scene before. You know, the type who seem to think the best way to earn respect is to walk up to the biggest dude in the room and punch him in the face. I get it.

But there seems to be something a bit different about Brad Keselowski and the way he has smirked at respect and dues-paying in Sprint Cup.

Kyle Busch had softer edges when he bulled his way into the series. He flashed arrogance and hard-headedness, for sure, but he also had undeniable respect for the sport.

Oh, and he also had game.

And now, he is getting respect as well as giving it.

It will be interesting to see how Keselowski evolves under Roger Penske and Tim Cindric.

Memo to self: Attain success and then smirk, not the other way around.

Some race fans can get all flowery and romantic when they discuss Robby Gordon and his feisty one-car Sprint Cup operation.

Gordon does not.

On last week’s edition of the radio show “The Race Reporters”, Gordon was asked about being one of the last of the one-car breed of owner/driver. He snapped his answer back and that answer was that he was not a one-car operation by choice. Nobody in their right mind would be, he indicated.

Success in Sprint Cup, Gordon said, is predicated on having teammates. Forget the glamour thing of being a one-car guy, Gordon wants and needs to expand.

Memo to self: Put a hold on the order for eight dozen “Joe Nemechek: 2010 Sprint Cup Champion” t-shirts.

Media notes:

* NHRA Funny Car champion Robert Hight will be the Newsmaker of the Week on “The Race Reporters” radio show, Wednesday, Nov.18, 7 p.m. ET, on www.PowerUpChannel.com.

Hight clinched his first Full Throttle title last weekend at Pomona Raceway in his fifth season driving for father-in-law John Force in the Auto Club Ford Mustang. Hight’s team struggled during NHRA’s regular season, but found performance during the six-race Countdown, winning three times. He was the 2005 rookie of the year.

Host Michael Knight will be joined for the journalists’ roundtable by Mark Armijo, of the Arizona Republic; and John Sturbin, of RacinToday.com.

“The Race Reporters” can be heard “live,” downloaded into an iPod, or accessed for listening on a delayed basis by clicking on the show icon at www.PowerUpChannel.com.

* A must-read: The story on Jimmie Johnson by Joe Posnanski in last week’s “Sports Illustrated”. Best personality profile of a race-car driver I have ever read.

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 18 2009
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