The Frontstretch: Martin / Montoya: The Closest Martin Has Come To An On-Track Feud by Tommy Thompson -- Thursday October 22, 2009

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Martin / Montoya: The Closest Martin Has Come To An On-Track Feud

Thompson In Turn 5 · Tommy Thompson · Thursday October 22, 2009


Two weeks ago, Turn 5 focused on the increasingly more confident Juan Pablo Montoya and his newfound status as one of the elite drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The article Juan Pablo Has Arrived, But Championship Hopes Are Underpowered chronicled the third-year driver for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing’s ascent from struggling freshman and sophomore campaigns in the series to a legitimate championship contender, as well as his own personal sense of belonging amongst even the most seasoned veterans of the sport.

The article offered, as support for Montoya’s increased personal assuredness, his comments of displeasure with race winner Mark Martin following the first race of the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship at Loudon, NH. Following a frantic dash to the checkered after a restart with three laps remaining, a visibly angered Montoya accused the popular veteran of “stopping” his Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet on the exit to Turn 1 with two laps remaining, letting it be known that he was none too happy with the 50-year-old Batesville, Arkansas native as a result. Montoya believes that Martin’s tactic killed his momentum, preventing him from taking the lead and ultimately the victory in that race. Instead, the Columbia native wound up third behind Martin and Denny Hamlin as his career winless streak on an oval continued on.

“What he did, not cool at all. I could have wrecked him,” Montoya radioed to his crew after the incident.

Yet Martin, seemingly oblivious to Montoya’s anger, offered nothing but praise for the pilot of the No. 42 Chevrolet after the race. “I have a lot of respect for Juan Montoya,” he said. “And I had respect for him and he had for me before a lot of others on the racetrack.”

“I still didn’t know for sure that he wouldn’t slip. I didn’t know that for sure, because I know that he’s racing for his first oval track win. But I knew he wouldn’t slip on purpose, and we’re all fighting hard. So I tried to give him enough room but do my race, too.”

Juan Pablo Montoya has voiced displeasure with Mark Martin’s driving twice in recent weeks — something that has rarely happened over Martin’s 27-year career.

However, as far as his race questionable maneuver was concerned, Martin made no apologies and did not believe he had done anything wrong. ““I fought for that race,” Martin said. “But I wouldn’t do anything. I still won’t.”

Midweek following New Hampshire, Montoya, clearly still irked with Martin, attempted to take some of the edge off of the situation. “He did what he had to do to win the race. I wasn’t the happiest guy,” he said in a NASCAR teleconference.

“It’s fun when you do it to someone else, but it’s not when they do it to you — but it’s part of it.”

Reading between the lines, it would be reasonable for one to assume that Martin should not expect any favors from Montoya in the future. That’s somewhat ironic, since Martin has been one of the former Indianapolis 500 winner and Formula 1 competitor’s biggest cheerleaders as he has transitioned into NASCAR. Montoya freely admits that he has leaned on Martin for sage advice on many occasions, even to the point of saying, “Mark’s an open book with me.”

Knowing that Montoya wears his emotions on his sleeve and is cursed with somewhat of a short fuse, coupled with the knowledge that Martin is known for his “clean” driving, it was easy to assume the small dustup at Loudon would soon be a distant memory. However, it looks like Martin once again has angered the 34-year old Montoya.

Ed Hinton, the highly reputable and longtime NASCAR journalist reported in a article this week that Montoya once again seems to have a beef with Martin after a Lap 125 rear-ending on a restart of the NASCAR Banking 500 from Lowe’s Motor Speedway last Saturday night. Hinton wrote,

“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.

Without a doubt, Montoya was placing blame for his misfortunes on Martin. The damage which incurred in the incident ultimately resulted in a dismal 35th place finish and, in all probability, dashed any hopes of a 2009 Sprint Cup Championship for Montoya and the No. 42 team.

However, Montoya didn’t hold Martin solely responsible for his misfortunes this time. Instead, he believes that race leader Jeff Gordon contributed to his ruined day as much, if not more than Martin. “We all kind of accelerated and then they all checked up,” Montoya said. “Every time the No. 24 restarts [in the lead], it’s the same thing. Every time the No. 24 restarts, everybody packs [together in] the back. I don’t know what he does, but it’s always the same thing.”

On the one hand, those comments show that Montoya has undoubtedly become comfortable in his skin as a NASCAR driver. For there are few people with the gall to “call out” a driver known for his on-track ethics and 40 wins over a 27-year career, as well as a four-time Sprint Cup champion with an eye-popping 82 modern day wins under his belt.

But with that said, the anger and fingerpointing towards Martin especially is noteworthy, if for no other reason than it is such a rarity. In fact, unable to conjure up any personal memories of when Martin was last called out in anger for his driving, and unable to find any such incidents in my research, I called on the crack staff here at However, they too drew a blank as to a definitive incident involving another driver being angered by Mark Martin for an on-track or, for that matter, an off-track incident more than once in such a short period of time.

Certainly, Mark Martin has been involved in accidents that were of his own doing; however, on those rare occasions, no one need wonder if Martin was at fault, as he will be the first to say he “screwed up.” Perhaps in the future, should the occasion arise, Montoya might consider discussing with Martin any questions he has concerning his actions behind the wheel before airing his dirty laundry out in public.

In the meantime, though, maybe Montoya should ponder this question: If no one but himself has had a real issue with a driver over that driver’s 27-year career … who really has the problem?

And… that’s my view from Turn 5.

Contact Tommy Thompson

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10/22/2009 12:50 AM

Wrong. I’m on the scanner and he blamed it on the 24 after his spotter said it was Jeff p- footing on the pedal. You say he was blaming it on Martin so Ed Hinton must be a mind reader! Because Juan Pablo did not say that.

Dans Mom
10/22/2009 08:06 AM

I find it humerous that everyone pity’s mark martin for finishing the season second and having all of this bad luck. Martin himself even coined Talladega as “the lottery” when in the end, it was his inability to restart clean that could cost him the championship.

Never his fault though…

Bill B
10/22/2009 08:32 AM

The real issue here is the COT and inability to pass once everyone gets rolling. It’s pretty much a fact that the only time you can make passes is on the restart so everyone tries to get everything they can get when the green flag waves. The double file restart has only made it more essential to anticipate the restart and jump on it quickly. This removes all room for error and we end up with lots of wrecks on restarts.
I will also add that if Jeff Gordon slows up EVERY TIME on a restart then Montoya should have been expecting it and therefore shouldn’t have had a problem. If Jeff does that EVERY TIME and Montoya still hit Bowyer then Montoya must be a slow learner or just plain stupid. Last time I checked the leader controls the restart.

10/22/2009 09:40 AM

wow. dan’s mom you are a real dope. do you really believe mark hit the 42 on purpose on that restart? i know this site is full of a bunch of posters who are full of shit and know very little about nascar but your ignorant comment here takes the cake.

10/22/2009 10:19 AM

Denny Hamlin as a rookie bad-mouthed Martin. He felt Martin should just pull over for him.

10/22/2009 11:05 AM

Here is a case of a writer trying to “create” a feud, for the sake of something to write about in his column! Anyone who follows NA$CAR knows that Montoya and Martin are best of friends, and Montoya has indicated on various occasions that Martin is his “go to guy” when he has questions, or problems! No feud – just Montoya speaking his mind – and a writer trying to create something!

don mei
10/22/2009 12:17 PM

The refreshing thing about JPM is that he speaks his mind. What you see is what you get. There is way too little of that in Nascar. If his candor reperesents a problem to you oh illustrious scribe, I would suggest (not very humbly)YOU are the one with the problem.

10/22/2009 12:18 PM

obviously dan needs to get his face off his mom’s teet. this IS one of gordon’s MO’s, montoya was just restating an old fact.

10/22/2009 12:25 PM

Hey dansmom – wake up – If Mark doesn’t win the championship, more than likely it will be because of the 48 team, not from spinning tires on restarts. JPM undoubtedly has unceremoniously unseated Shrub as the reining NASCAR crybaby.

Robert Eastman
10/22/2009 01:53 PM

I’ll never forget Jeff Gordon’s comment at Watkins Glen a few years ago(?) (before JG & MM were teammates) when Mark Martin wrecked JG. Jeff said, “I must have done something wrong because everyone knows that Mark’s a great driver and he doesn’t purposely wreck anyone.” An amazing tribute to the character of Mark Martin! (Oh,BTW it was MM’s fault and I’m an ardent Mark Martin fan… he’s #1 in my book!)
It’s amusing how many lesser drivers/(lesser characters) keep “demanding respect,” not understanding that one can only “earn respect!” The race at Bristol when Mark refused to “nudge” Kyle Bush and grab the win, once again proved that Mark Martin has “earned his accolades!”

10/22/2009 02:37 PM

I like Mark Martin, and I hope he wins a championship, but I am not ready to canonize him. I remember a race in the 90s in which he ran Jeff Gordon up the track and into the wall after Gordon had bumped Martin to pass him. I also recall reading an article in the 90s that indicated that Mark had not been such a gentleman racer in ASA and in his first Cup attempt. Mark Martin is one of the cleanest drivers on the track, but he is not a saint.

As for the race Robert Eastman mentions above, I seem to recall thinking that Gordon’s comment was intentionally ironic – praising Martin for being a great driver even though Gordon and everyone who saw the replay could see that Martin was a fault. I believe it has become so ingrained in the NASCAR world that Martin is a gentleman driver that other drivers (and car owners) are reluctant to criticize him openly, even if he is at fault for something or engages in tactics that anger fellow competitors. For example, I was listening to Montoya’s radio at the end of the New Hampshire race, and he said exactly the same thing to his team that he later said in the post-race interview. Ganassi came on the radio to tell Montoya not to say anything negative about Martin in the interview, but Montoya did not hear this advice because he had already disconnected his radio.

10/22/2009 07:14 PM

Counting the article and all the comments, less than a handful of screw ups can be attributed to Martin. That kind of says it all, don’t ya think?

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