“I was robbed,” exclaimed Juan Pablo Montoya. “NASCAR will apologize, but they screwed my whole day up.” Those words reverberate through my mind as I tried to calm myself down. Juan Pablo was mad, and so was I.
One of the most glaring examples of race fixing I have ever witnessed. Montoya was the most dominate car at today’s Brickyard 400, and yet he finishes 11 after the disgraceful action by race control.
I can’t put into words about this incident any better than the conversation between Montoya and the 42 crew chief Brian Pattie. This conversation happened right after Montoya made his penalty stop.
Radio Chatter (Juan Pablo Montoya) ''I hope Mike Helton is listening. I was robbed today.''
(Crew Chief Brian Pattie warning) ''Ok bud calm down. This is being listened to.'' (by NASCAR Race Control)
(Montoya) ''I've been robbed and I've been screwed before, but they (NASCAR) has out did themselves today!'' pause ''Why would I speed when I had a five sec lead?” pause “It's just stupid.''
During caution No. 3 Juan stated, ''I feel like parking the car right now.''
(Crew Chief Pattie responds) ''Don't do that, there's more than just you,” pause “there's 200 people back at the shop.''
(Montoya) ''Brian France told us to race hard and don't tell the public you're holding back.''
(Crew Chief Pattie to Juan) “you need to stop talking about it.” Pause “You’re only making it worse.”
Juan Pablo got in one additional jab at race control ''Thank you NASCAR for screwing my day.''
Was it predictable? One other little tidbit heard between Montoya and Pattie. Juan made mention of the pit rpm warning light being slower than pit speed. He stated he did not want another pit road violation. He was hit with this penalty in the past and the team decided to set the pit limits a bit slower and not push the limits.
Pattie called Montoya on the run into the pits and reminded him to keep the limit lights in the green and not screw up the lead. This doesn’t sound like a team pushing the limits, but a team very aware of what any slip up would mean.
Was Montoya speeding on pit road? Near the end of the race, it sounded a lot like NASCAR was apologizing for a screw up to the 42 team as relayed to Montoya by Crew Chief Pattie after the last caution.
So if Montoya was penalized wrongly, then why was it done? I have no proof that it was nothing more than an understandable error. Yet let’s look at some of the events leading up to this moment.
All weekend it was a Mark Martin love fest by the TV crews. I got sick of hearing how old Martin is and how this was a new qualifying record. If Martin is so old that such hoopla was warranted, maybe he should retire for keeps. At the time of the penalty, Martin was in second place over four seconds behind Montoya.
Then let us look at the race winner, Jimmie Johnson. Johnson was last year’s Brickyard winner and apparently the media favorite as he is being put on a proverbial pedestal. At the time of the penalty, he was running in third place. Johnson was roughly six seconds behind Montoya.
Third place finisher Jeff Gordon was mired further back in the field, until the engine blew up in Dale Earnhardt, Jr. No. 88 Chevrolet. Using fantastic pit strategy and a well planned race game plan he was able to advance into contention.
The first three finishers are all cars owned by mega-team owner, Rick Hendrick. Was this a coincidence? Did a commanding lead by the brass and controversial Montoya make the Hendrick teams look bad? Did Montoya’s runaway lead mean that the 2009 Brickyard 400 was going to be classified as a boring race?
The much ballyhooed double-file restarts did not do what NASCAR management wanted, by creating an exciting race? They only work if there are cautions and thanks to the impressive work of Goodyear engineers the tire problems of the 2008 race is just a bad memory. Being mostly caution free with only three yellows during the whole race.
All of these questions make me ask, “Did Montoya actually speed on pit road?” I don’t think he did, or why would NASCAR send an apology to Crew Chief Patti? So my answer is the race outcome was a NASCAR fabrication. NASCAR dictated through a supposedly bad call what drivers would race for the win.
I also hear in my mind a very talented and well-respected driver Tony Stewart making this same accusation last season. I also remember after the radio show in which he compared NASCAR to Professional Wrestling with their fixed outcomes.
I just hope next week in Pennsylvania, Montoya and the 42 team aren’t locked out of the pits until he publicly apologize for his true feelings that he was robbed of one of the NASCAR crown jewels. I also hope there is enough of an outcry by the fans of real auto racing that this kind of travesty never happens again.
I also hope that somebody with enough guts will publicly challenge the France dictatorship of NASCAR and can make some much-needed changes. I love auto racing and I have been completely enamored with the NASCAR I grew up with, when the cars represented a real “Stock,” car.
I want my NASCAR back in the racing business. I want the “head in the sand,” management out of my beloved sport and somebody in that will respond to the fans instead of a bunch of power and money hungry dictators.
I didn’t always agree with Big Bill France, Sr. but I will bet he is rolling in his grave over how his creation has been changed to the point that his concept of “Stock,” no longer applies.
NASCAR management can try and sale the fantasy that all their problems are economic, but when I see huge unsold sections at Indianapolis I have to question that assumption. The problems are much deeper and NASCAR needs to address them before they get to the point of no return.
I want all my readers to know, I am not a Juan Pablo Montoya fan. Yet I think he deserves a fair shake as all the drivers do. I am not promoting his complaint as his fan, but as a NASCAR fan that saw a wrong and pointed it out.
Do I expect any overt apology to Montoya by NASCAR? Unfortunately, I do not as the spin merchants are already going out of their way to lambaste Montoya.
If you watched the race, what did you think? Was Montoya wronged, or did he make a crucial mistake after the team addressed the problem?