Juan Pablo Montoya might have raised a few eyebrows after yesterday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race in New Hampshire when he said if anybody does that to him again (Mark Martin pinning him down low and then backing off), he’ll hit him (as in, wreck him).
But I think it was calculated. I suggest Montoya – who’s adjusted admirably to stock car racing after spending most of his career in the light and nimble Formula One and Indy cars – was sending a message:
Now that I can drive these cars quickly, I’m going to be as rough and tough as anybody else out there and it will not be a very wise move for you to get in my way.
The incident that sparked this outburst (if you want to call it that – Montoya had calmed down considerably from the mood he’d been in when he’d first climbed out of his car) was during one of the many restarts toward the end of the race.
Montoya was on the inside of the front row and Martin was outside. The green flag fell and Montoya couldn’t build up any momentum because Martin wouldn’t let him up off the bottom. Then Martin got past him and slowed down, which forced Montoya to back off to avoid a collision. When that happened, Denny Hamlin snuck by, leaving Montoya to finish third behind the winner Martin.
"I think that was a pretty dirty trick," Montoya said. "Next time he does that, my brakes might get a little numb or something . . . You'll maybe want to move the guy – to get the bumper in there. I’ll know next time."
We’ll be watching, Juan.
The New Hampshire race, the first in the Chase for the Championship, was an exciting one. Montoya ran surprisingly well – he had the pole and was fastest in practice all weekend. In the end, though, it was the old campaigner, Martin, who walked off with all the marbles.
It was Martin’s fifth victory of the season – the most in Sprint Cup – and so it’s fitting he’s leading the standings after the first of 10 "playoff" races. Jimmie Johnson and Hamlin are tied for second (and they’ve won three races and two, respectively, this season) while Montoya (no wins but he’s getting close) is third.
The Sprint Cup moves to Dover, Del., next weekend.
Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., all but wrapped up the 2009 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series championship at Riverside Speedway near Antigonish, N.S., yesterday when he won the Komatsu 300, delayed from Saturday evening because of inclement weather.
Jeff Lapcevich of Grimsby was second (it was one of his best finishes in years) and Mark Dilley of Barrie was third.
The fourth-place finish by Ron Beauchamp Jr. of Windsor moved him into second-place in the standings ahead of D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas, who lost his transmission after 141 laps and finished 18th.
Although it won’t officially be over until Ranger fires up his car for next Saturday night’s last race of the season at Kawartha Speedway near Peterborough, the champagne corks will start popping as soon as the green flag waves.
Ranger, the ex-Champ Car and Formula Atlantic driver who’s concentrated on stock cars in recent years, will have won his second title in three years. And he'll have done it this year by winning not only on the road courses (he wracked up three wins at Mosport, Trois-Rivieres and Edmonton) but on the ovals as well: Sun Valley Speedway in B.C., Mosport Speedway and Antigonish.
He's Sprint Cup material. But who's going to give him a shot?
Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto solidified his hold on second place in the European Formula 2 standings at Imola this weekend with a fourth-place finish in Race 1 and a second-place finish in Race 2. He also won the pole for Race 2.
There are two races remaining in the championship, at Barcelona at the end of October. Spain’s Andy Soucek has already wrapped up the championship.
Mark Wilkins of Toronto and American Burt Frisselle brought the AIM Autosport No. 61 Ford Riley Daytona Prototype home in fifth place yesterday in the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Championship race at Tooele, Utah, which was won by Alex Gurney and Jon Fogerty. The Woodbridge team is now in sixth place in the championship and just three points out of fifth.
The last race in the Rolex series will take place on the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida in three weeks.