While Montoya focused on getting his car ready for the Tums Fast Relief 500 race at Martinsville Speedway, attention turned from race preparations to the former Formula One now NASCAR driver due to a remark made by an announcer during a college football game.
Bob Griese, ESPN football analyst, made what many considered a racially stereotypical remark about Montoya. While the network was promoting the NASCAR race coverage, a graphic with the top five drivers in the Chase was displayed.
Color commentator and ESPN colleague Chris Spielman asked Griese, "Where's Montoya?"
Griese responded, "Out eating a taco."
Griese apologized twice during the broadcast about the remark he made while broadcasting the football game between Ohio State and Minnesota.
"Juan Pablo Montoya is one of the best drivers in NASCAR. I just want to apologize for the comment I made earlier in the ballgame," Griese stated in his apology.
ESPN released a statement shortly afterward.
"During today's telecast of the Ohio State-Minnesota college football game on ESPN, analyst Bob Griese made an inappropriate comment when discussing NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya."
The statement continued, "Bob apologized during the telecast, and plans to apologize again during ESPN's college football programming after his plane lands. ESPN has spoken to Bob and he understands that his comment was uncalled for."
NASCAR media reported that Griese had contacted Montoya directly and also issued his apologies for his off-hand, yet potentially discriminatory remark.
While Griese may need a Tums or two of his own, Juan Pablo Montoya no doubt needed a Tums Fast Relief 500 after his run at Lowe's Motor Speedway last weekend. A spin and crash in that race sent Montoya from third to sixth in the points standings.
Prior to the Charlotte race, Montoya had been stout in each of the Chase races. He was one of the only Chasers to finish in the top ten consistently.
Montoya, however, refused to be discouraged by the poor performance or his drop in the points standings. He maintained that his primary focus was continuing to run well, be competitive, and enjoy the remaining races of the season.
“We came here, we made the Chase and we’ve been competitive, we had a bad week," Montoya said. "You’ve got to look at the positives. The positives were we probably had the second fastest car last week."
Montoya continued, "I would say the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) had a faster car than us. Apart from that nobody had a faster car than us. Neither the No. 11 or myself had a good week. What can you do? We lost a ton of points, you move on."
Montoya seemed indeed ready to tackle Martinsville this weekend, a short track which is admittedly not one of his best. The driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet openly stated that he struggles sometimes with figuring out how to get around the track shaped like a paper clip.
“I would love to know that," said Montoya of how to master Martinsville. "This place is hard because it’s always a tough balance between how much the car turns through the center of the corner and how much traction you’ve got off the corner."
"If you can have a car that turns well and puts the power down good you can have a chance of winning this," Montoya continued. "Last time we were here, we were really fast because the car turned through the center, you could get on the gas."
"By the time race came we couldn’t turn through the center and it wouldn’t put the power down so what do you do?”
In the only practice at Martinsville, Montoya did well, scoring in the second position with a time of 19.698 seconds and a speed of 96.132 miles per hour.
Unfortunately, Montoya was not able to back up his practice time with his qualifying run. He qualified in the 21st spot, with a time of 19.819 seconds and a speed of 94.545 miles per hour.
Yet Montoya, as is his custom, put it all behind him and remains singularly focused on the sixth race in the championship chase this weekend. And in spite of Griese's remark or the media circus that it has created, Montoya only has eyes for running well in the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
“It’s the same thing we’ve been doing," Montoya said. "Have fun, run hard, make sure everybody sees that Target car running hard and up front and see what happens."
"If we can go out and win some races that would be awesome," Montoya continued, "I think we’re way overdue but as I say that it could take a year before I win a freaking race so I don’t know.”
Depending on how it goes for Montoya at Martinsville, he and many of the other competitors may just want to keep those extra-strength Tums close at hand. And Montoya might just want to share one or two of them with ESPN analyst Bob Griese.