Montoya Speeds, Johnson Wins At The Brickyard
By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer
Indianapolis – Jimmie Johnson won the Brickyard 400 by a narrow margin over Mark Martin, but it will be remembered as the race Juan Pablo Montoya lost.
Taking the lead with an outside pass on the double-file restart, Johnson out-dueled the Chevy of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Martin over the final 23 laps of green. But the only reason there was any battle at all was the sudden departure of Montoya’s dominant Chevy.
After leading 116 of 124 laps, the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver received a penalty for speeding at the exit from the pit road on his last stop. Montoya fell from a six-second lead to 12th place and was able to gain only one position after a final caution bunched the field.
“I swear on the life of my wife and my son that I was not speeding,” said Montoya to his team over the radio, arguing that NASCAR had made a mistake. He said the green lights on his dash indicated he was at the team’s pre-set RPM.
But Montoya was the fourth driver to be called for the infraction within a span of 33 laps by officials via a timing loop at the pit exit, where the limit was 55 mph and a driver had to exceed it by 5 mph to draw a penalty. Others were Terry Labonte, Sam Hornish Jr. and Elliott Sadler.
In pursuit of becoming the first driver to win both the Indy 500 and the 400-mile NASCAR race, Montoya was more composed after the race. “It kind of sucks,” he said. “I was on the lights every time. Then I heard, ‘You were speeding.'”
After a drive-thru penalty, Montoya spent most of the final laps battling rookie Joey Logano for 11th place. It appeared he had a reprieve when Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s blown engine brought out a yellow two laps after the drive through penalty, but the dirty air in traffic proved difficult for the former leader.
The final yellow was costly for pole-winner Martin, who ran second behind Montoya for most of the race and then assumed the lead. He chose the inside line for the double-file re-start, but Johnson vaulted past using a side-draft in Turns 1 and 2 at the green.
“That was my only opportunity,” said Johnson. “After one or two laps everything kind of evened out.”
“I just didn’t get a good enough jump,” said Martin. “I needed another three feet to clear him. Going into that corner I was as fast as I could go without wrecking.”
At the previous round in Chicago, Martin held the lead versus Johnson despite late cautions that bunched the field four double-file re-starts. This time it was different. The procedure “is for the fans,” said Martin. “You’re going to win some and lose some on it.”
Martin pulled to within three car lengths twice in the closing laps, but he could not break the aerodynamic barrier posed by the leading Chevy of Johnson, winner of his second straight at the Brickyard.
Martin said he “couldn’t believe” that he didn’t hit the wall at the exit of Turn 2 to get a run on Johnson down the backstraight. “I was beating Jimmie pretty bad off of Turn 2. He was beating me pretty bad off of Turn 4. I knew I was going to have to make a move off of Turn 2. I tried it several times.”
The winner’s aggressiveness was matched by the effort of his crew led by Chad Knaus to get his Lowe’s Chevy more competitive. After qualifying 16th, Knaus chose several chassis changes and directed the crew to make some big changes on pit stops as well. “I knew within about two laps we were going to be competitive,” said Johnson.
After intensive testing and development, Goodyear’s tires performed well in place of the regular blowouts experienced last year.
The only driver to have a serious problem was Kyle Busch, who hit the wall in Turn 4 when a right front tire blew on lap 59. “I don’t know if it was our set-up or the tire,” said Busch.
Despite last year’s problems, a crowd estimate at 180,000 turned out at the 2.5-mile track, second this year only to the Daytona 500.3 Comments