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Aggressive Montoya takes checkered in Mexico

3/4/2007 - NASCAR

MEXICO CITY -- Juan Pablo Montoya spun teammate Scott Pruett
to take the lead with eight laps left, then held off Denny Hamlin
to win the Busch Series race on Sunday for his first NASCAR
victory.

Montoya, the Colombian star who jumped from Formula One to
NASCAR late last season, recovered from a bad pit stop to
aggressively move from 19th to first, taking the lead when he sent
Pruett's car spinning on the 72nd lap of the Telcel-Motorola 200.

"I'm very sorry about what happened with Scott," Montoya said.
"I thought he saw me and when he came across I had no room to
go."

Montoya said he would personally apologize to Pruett.

"Of all the people to take out -- your teammate," Pruett said.
"That was just lowdown, nasty, dirty driving."

Hamlin, right behind the two Chip Ganassi Racing drivers at the
time, said it was a tough call.

"I wouldn't call it dirty driving, but it was a bit
aggressive," Hamlin said. "Juan had the fastest car and he would
have taken the lead sooner or later. He was overzealous."

Hamlin, the winner last year, pressured Montoya in the closing
laps, but couldn't pass on the 2.518-mile Autodromo Hermanos
Rodriguez road course's s-curves.

Boris Said finished third in the race that ended with a
green-white-checker finish after a late caution. Carl Edwards was
fourth, and Pruett finished fifth.

"I'm really glad we won, but really upset that we took out a
teammate," said Brad Parrott, Montoya's crew chief.

Montoya, who had the dominant car for the entire race, started
in third but took the lead from Pruett on the third lap.

Montoya made a green-flag stop on the 45th lap, but a fuel
malfunction forced him to return to the pits about 10 laps later.
After a caution, he started 19th and quickly moved his way back to
the front of the field.

"The reason I came to NASCAR is for the racing, and we showed
today it is a great place for racing,' Montoya said.

His victory was celebrated with deafening cheers from the
72,000-strong Mexican crowd. Montoya gained a following in Mexico
with Formula N victories back in the 1990s.

The Mexican fans were hungry for a fellow Latino to win a NASCAR
event in Mexico after two years in which U.S. drivers took the
crown south of the border.

"It's huge for the Latin community and for everybody who
supported me," Montoya said. "Every time I'm out there I want to
shine. To be able to convert this into victory shows where the
Ganassi team is going. Hopefully we can share a lot more
successes."

Two Mexican drivers finished in the top 10.

Jorge Goeters started fourth and held the lead for three laps
before finishing seventh. It was a personal best for the Mexico
City native who stunned the field by winning the pole for the 2005
race.

"I'm very excited," Goeters said. "This is the kind of race
that everybody loves. Nobody knows who's going to win until the
white flag is coming up. Congratulations to Juan Pablo."

Adrian Fernandez, Mexico's best known driver, finished ninth.

The course features eight tight turns and was tough for many
Busch Series regulars used to negotiating oval tracks.

David Reutimann, who finished 12th in a Toyota, said he had never
seen turns like these in his life.

"I definitely learned a lot," he said. "We had to run off the
track one time but other than that we stayed on course, and they
told me if I kept clean I would come home with a top 15."

Others got in more trouble and there were a total of eight
cautions, including the Montoya-Pruett bump.

Pruett was involved in another incident in the 25th when he
passed Venezuela's Alex Garcia, leading to a minor bump that sent
Garcia spinning.

In lap 66, Australian Marcos Ambrose driving a Ford and J.J. Yeley in his Chevrolet banged each other near the front of the pack
sending each other spinning. Yeley's engine went after the incident
and he finished 37th, while Ambrose recovered and finished eighth.

"I got spun and then he spun out. But that's NASCAR. You've got
to roll with it," Ambrose said. "I put my head down and just
tried to come back as best I could."

Officials said a total of 116,118 came to the track during the
three days with 72,971 watching Sunday's race, a similar attendance
to last year.