The Frontstretch: Montoya The Madman Or Harvick The Hothead - Either Way, Just What NASCAR Needs by Thomas Bowles -- Sunday August 12, 2007

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Montoya The Madman Or Harvick The Hothead - Either Way, Just What NASCAR Needs

Bowles-Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Sunday August 12, 2007


It's a facet of life we learn early and often, from the moment we're introduced to the seriousness of war to the second we see Superman do battle with Lex Luthor to keep the Earth safe: the basic principle of Good vs Evil. Nowhere is that philosophy more readily applied than in the arena of professional sports - the humanization of athletes is the core through which fans wrap their sporting loyalties around. People like to love - and love to hate; but most of all, they love to feel.

It's the type of attachment that NASCAR has been struggling to generate at times this year - until now.

Truth be told, the last 20 laps of Nextel Cup's annual visit to The Glen was filled with enough raw emotion to fill a 2-hour Lifetime movie - a refreshing break from the wave of political correctness and sponsor soliloquies that have defined the sport over the past few years. But while Jeff Gordon's fall from grace and Matt Kenseth's comedic interlude with a crazed fan were some of the more notable experiences on the afternoon, nothing compared to the in-your-face screamfest turned shoving match in the center of turn one. There Kevin Harvick and Juan Pablo Montoya worked out some personal differences in the most public of settings, all while their cars leaked out fluids and the frustration of missed opportunity behind a wreck neither one appeared to be at fault for starting.

In truth, it was the No. 1 car of Martin Truex, Jr. which led to both drivers being innocent victims - his bump of Montoya's car on Lap 73 sent the No. 42 head-on into traffic, where it was clobbered by Jeff Burton, Harvick, and several others. But to Harvick, whether Montoya committed the crime was merely an afterthought - simply being at the scene was enough to convict him. Too much history with Montoya on the race track - and not all of it positive - had him more than eager to come to blows with a man he felt ruined his day.

"I guess the No. 1 ran over the No. 42," he said, admitting fact before devolving into opinion. "But I just hate it. I’m frustrated with the No. 42 (Montoya). It just seems like he runs over somebody every week.”

After the wreck, Harvick was dead set on doing some running over of his own. Jumping out of his race car as Montoya disembarked from his, he began a conversation with the rookie about his style - filled with plenty of expletives to boot. Trading barbs back and forth soon turned into trading shoves, and the two needed to be separated by track officials before things got much worse. Much to the delight of the crowd, the polite control switch had been turned off in both of their brains - leaving raw emotion ready to be released amongst the masses.

"He got out of the car, came out disrespectful, saying all kinds of things, grabbed me, and I don't appreciate that," Montoya said of Harvick's reaction. "I race very clean. I give people space, and if you are not going to respect me, I am not going to respect them either. It's pretty disappointing to see a guy like that do such a thing."

"I went to Kevin and said ‘It wasn't my fault. I got hit from behind.' He started shouting and grabbing me, and I don't appreciate that. If it was my fault I would have gone and said, ‘It was my fault.' I have a little respect for the guy…well, I used to have a little respect for the guy."

When asked what the two discussed, Harvick was blunt and to the point:

"We talked about kicking his ass, because that's what I felt like doing."

Intervention kept it short of going that far, but the words pierced like a knife - it was clear that Montoya and Harvick were not big fans of each other anymore, at least on this day. Having already been involved in a wreck with Montoya at Daytona one month earlier, Harvick had been none too pleased with the Colombian's driving ever since - and this wreck provided an opening for him to vent his frustration.

In the end, Tony Stewart won the race - but the buzz from the stands could tell you that hardly mattered in the grand scheme of things. Just like in the 1979 Daytona 500 - where Richard Petty won while Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough fought on the backstretch - all people had at the front of their minds was the confrontation of the year.

"I've got to stick with my guy," said car owner Chip Ganassi when asked the dreaded what if Harvick and Montoya didn't get broken apart. "You aren't allowed to bet on your own team. I don't want to end up like Pete Rose betting on my own team but I would have bet on my guy."

Harvick wasn't the only supposed Montoya victim once the race was complete - Jimmie Johnson was none too happy either after making contact with the Colombian early in the race, and getting the short end of the stick.

"I have to admit, when he dumped me, I was furious," said Johnson, who came back to finish third. "Here we are minding our business, running along out there, and the guy never gets inside of me and just runs me over to get position. And it’s unfortunate he gets his chance to run well on these road courses, and he takes advantage of it and starts laying the bumper to everybody."

Of course, such talk leaves Montoya in the dubious position of being labeled the bad guy. Perhaps that's unfair; and in fact, maybe you believe differently, that Harvick was the hothead that misread a crash while letting his temper getting the best of him.

Either way, it's doubtless you have an opinion, a topic to talk about at the office cooler the next morning. Now, it's up to the sanctioning body to take notice; doubtless, fines will come of this, but points penalties? I'd hope not. Thirty seconds of passion did more for the sport's popularity than thirty minutes of post-race "I want to thank my sponsor" speeches combined. And that's the way it should be; throwing the curtain aside, both Montoya and Harvick forgot who they were and what they were supposed to stand for and let their true personalities out for everyone to see.

If only that was the case for every driver, every week.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
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©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

Don Gibson
08/13/2007 05:08 AM

On Saturday Montoya had called Kevin Harvick a “prima Donna” on an aired in car audio. This had to be fresh also in Harvicks mind.

M. B. Voelker
08/13/2007 06:28 AM

I know I shouldn’t, but I just couldn’t stop laughing at the complete lameness of the “fight”.

I certainly wouldn’t want them hurting each other, but the incongruity of these aggressive, hyper-competitive athletes pushing, shoving, and slapping hands like children in a playground squabble is just, plain funny.

I simply can’t take it seriously — I’m half convinced that their penalty ought to be mandatory boxing lessons.

Marty C
08/13/2007 07:22 AM

Good thing it was 2 of NASCARS golden boys involved. Can you imagine what would have happened if one of them had been Robby Gorden?

Rajeev Jaswal
08/13/2007 07:38 AM

I agree with M.B. It was a lame shoving match. Looks like Montoya would have easily overpowered Harvick though and that’s why Harvick didn’t push it too far. Harvick got little aggressive after the officials got there. I was laughing at his lame attempt to be macho. I wish Robby was there. He would have easily traded barbs with Harvick or Montoya. Anyways it made for a good entertainment. I was disappointed that they kept their helmets on. Harvick was smart enough to keep his helmet on or else he would have had multiple 25 points fine for cursing.

08/13/2007 10:35 AM

I know Montoya is a seasoned,sucessful driver and he has done very well in this new venue(for him) BUT I think he came into it thinking since because of his past sucess he could just get behind the wheel and pick up right where he left off. I admire him as a driver, and he seemed nice enough. I was prepared to accept him into the fold and wait and see what he turned out to be. I WILL say, I have seen flashes of arrogance that kind of put me off, but on the whole he didn’t stand out to me as someone I didn’t like. Now it’s no secret to anyone who knows me, I’ve been a “Happy Hotwheels” fan from the second race I ever watched (I admit, my first race experience I rooted for Kurt Busch, because he was in the John Deere car, and being a southern girl….well..since there was no “Moon Pie” Or “RC Cola” car John Deere was the most obvious choice.
But I digress, As Kevin hopped outta his car I was kinda sorta hoping he’d take a swing at Montoya. Like Happy,I was not aware of the circumstances leading to the result. Looking at the replay, I see Mister Montoya was just as innocent a victim as Happy. So, today, I’m glad Happy didn’t take a swing, because Humble Pie is kinda bitter. You have to admit, the last 20 laps or so gave us all something we haven’t felt in a while. Reguardless of who your favorite driver is,it was a good time ;-) I’m not taking sides, so Happy, say you’re sorry. Mister Montoya, say “awww shucks Happy, I understand” and lets all have a piece of pie.

08/13/2007 11:23 AM

I was sitting in my office last week when I noticed outside my window, a lady had turned into the office parking lot. Behind her was a man in a pick up truck who was flipping her off and spit at her from his window. I thought to myself “how embarassing for him to act that way”. Reminds me of Kevin Harvick. I’m embarassed for Harvick. I mean somebody has got to be.

08/13/2007 11:24 AM

Sure everyone wants to blame Truex. Montoya put the block on a faster car and caused the wreck. Harvick knew he couldn’t take a swing because Montoya is one of Nascar’s golden boys and can do no wrong. Montoya beats and bangs on people every race. I was at Richmond and even Kyle Petty gave him a shot going down the backstretch.

08/13/2007 12:54 PM

I have to say that I was surprised Harvick took the action to restart his car after the wreck and drive it over to block JPM on the track. That is the reason JPM got out of the car in the first place. I question NASCAR not fining Happy for that move. I heard NASCAR has already said there will be no penalties. The shoving match is not a big deal but they were on the track and could have interferred with the race if there hadn’t been tons of debris. Made for fun watching though!

08/13/2007 01:25 PM

And I bet that there won’t be any fines involved….will there?

08/13/2007 01:34 PM

Every week Montoya wrecks or almost wrecks someone. He blocked Truex and got bumped in the process which still makes him at fault. Nascar could not do anything to Harvick as Harvick was just flapping his jaws. Montoya started the little sissy shoving. Nascar would have to do something to Montoya and that will NEVER happen or at least not until he finally kills someone. In the process of trying for get the Mexican fans they will lose the American fans.

08/13/2007 03:16 PM

What a shame! Harvick had a fast car and it would have been a good finish with him and Tony fighting for the win. As far as Harvick & Montoyas little dance well I think they should watch a hockey game or two to see how real men settle things!!!

08/13/2007 04:14 PM

I have to agree with Patrick and Connie. Montoya isn’t making many friends by taking someone out pretty much every week. I know I get a real sick feeling when he’s running anywhere near my driver!! Even though he may not have gotten into Harvick intentionally, I still would have liked to see Harvick kick his butt just for all the other times he screwed someone. His fans may call him competetive and agressive but I think he’s just a sore loser. And I also agree with Connie that NASCAR should do something about him before he hurts or kills someone.

Butch Camp
08/13/2007 04:53 PM

Gotta agree with Harvick on one point, Montoya does screw up someone every week, & it’s never his fault. Everyone else just whines to the media about it, but Harvick like Tony Stewart isn’t afraid to mix it up if he feels it’s needed.What gets me & maybe it’s smart, but they always leave their helmets on, so it’s nothing more than a shoving match.I’ve been in a few differences of opinion shall we say on the track but never with my helmet on, probably could have avoided a couple of shiners like that probably. Still a shoving match isn’t at all like the “old days” like the Allisons & Cale Yarborough,& a few others.To Rajeeve, not so sure that Montoya could prevail, Harvick’s pretty scrappy

08/13/2007 05:22 PM

Connie – Montoya isn’t Mexican – he’s Colombian. And I’ll take the point of view that Harvick was wrong to park in front of Montoya and get out of his car and confront him. Make me the King of NASCAR and I’d fine Harvick for his widdle baby tantrum.

08/13/2007 05:51 PM

Victor,You are forgetting at the time Happy THOUGHT Montoya took him out. Besides, maybe his car stalled again… lol Connie and Butch, I agree, When things get tight and Montoya is around ,I just hold my breath and wait for him to take someone out. Everyone B*%#*@s that nasacar and racing isn’t like it used to be. Too much sanitizing and politicaly correct stuff, When we see raw emotion and hard racin it reminds me of times long gone..
I bet Dale Sr.was smilin’ I don’t wanna see anyone hurt and I don’t want it to turn into “Wrestlin” But I don’t wanna see Mother Theresa drivin the #8 either.

08/14/2007 12:03 PM


I never said Montoya was Mexican. I said Nascar wants the Mexican fans watching. The fans in Mexico are crazy about Montoya.

John Harlan
08/14/2007 03:15 PM

I’m a big Jeff Burton fan, and was fired up by the fact that JPM let his car roll back onto the track and take out the 31 car after his initial crash with the 29.


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