Commentary

Montoya fuming after bump with Martin

Updated: October 18, 2009, 2:10 AM ET
By Ed Hinton | ESPN.com

Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos AmbroseAP Photo/Gerry Broome One little bump and Juan Pablo Montoya's season took a turn for the worse.

CONCORD, N.C. -- So much for the mutual admiration society where Juan Pablo Montoya was calling Mark Martin the most dangerous man in the Chase and Martin was calling Montoya the man to watch.

Their tangle Saturday night netted both of them lousy finishes and put some serious dents and a hole in their erstwhile close pursuit of Jimmie Johnson in the playoff standings.

The ruinous little collision came only 125 laps into the 334-lap NASCAR Banking 500, and both were able to continue.

But the dents were in Montoya's car and he finished 35th, dropping from third to sixth in the Chase standings, from 46 points behind race winner Johnson to 195.

The hole was in Martin's grille, and he struggled to finish 17th, clinging to second place in the standings but plunging from 12 to 90 points behind Johnson.

Montoya having suffered the most points damage, he was the more annoyed of the two -- er -- old buddies.

"Did he hit me or did I hit him?" Montoya snapped when I asked him about it.

Well, technically, Martin rear-ended him, but it was because Montoya had checked up on a restart.

"Oh, OK," Montoya fumed. "I just wanted to make sure you were watching the same thing I did."

But the thing was, Montoya got into the back of Clint Bowyer, restarting just ahead of him.

"I got hit into the car in front of us," Montoya said.

Martin left the track atypically quickly after the race, speaking only briefly to reporters, and not about the bump with Montoya at that.

"We had a lot of issues tonight and we could have given up and none of them did," he said of his crew, according to a Chevrolet publicist.

More than Martin, Montoya blamed Jeff Gordon, who was leading and therefore setting the pace on the troublesome restart.

"We all kind of accelerated and then they all checked up," Montoya said. "Every time the 24 restarts [in the lead], it's the same thing. Every time the 24 restarts, everybody packs on the back. I don't know what he does but it's always the same thing."

Gordon was restarting slowly, so as not to let his pursuers get a run on him on the restart.

"It's what it is," Montoya said. "And we just gotta move on. This car was pretty impressive [before the bump].

"We had probably one of the fastest cars. There's not much we can do. We worked as hard as we could and did all that we thought was possible, and here we go. You know? Today the best we could do was 35th."

Newton: Perfection fuels the 48

Leave it to Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus to blow this Chase wide open just five races into the 10-race playoff. The 48 team is that good. Column

Montoya got enough damage from the crunch at both ends that he fell steadily backward with what had previously been a contending car, until he spun out solo on Lap 164.

But the more he talked afterward, the more he shrugged and shook it off.

"It's OK, you know?" he said. "It's racing. If you're expecting to have 10 clean races [in the Chase], you're dreaming. We knew it could happen.

"And here [1.5-mile Lowe's Motor Speedway], always, restarts are an issue, and I managed to slow down and I just got run [into] from behind.

"It happens."

He tried to get the glass to look half full.

"We made the Chase," he said. And he's the first foreign-born driver coming in from another series, Formula One, to do so, though now his chances of becoming the first such driver to win a NASCAR championship are miniscule.

"Up to today, we had four top-5s in a row," he said of the time when he was alongside Martin as Johnson's only serious competition for the championship.

"Even today, we, we had a faster car than the 48 [Johnson's winning car].

"It's one of those racing things that happen."

If Montoya is picking up the fatalism of NASCAR drivers as well as he's picking up their sayings, he's in pretty good shape.

Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at edward.t.hinton@espn3.com.

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