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End of the affair

Montoya's aggressive driving not winning friends

Posted: Monday April 2, 2007 1:21PM; Updated: Monday April 2, 2007 3:36PM
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In less than two months in NASCAR, Juan Pablo Montoya seems comfortable bumping and grinding with his fellow drivers.
In less than two months in NASCAR, Juan Pablo Montoya seems comfortable bumping and grinding with his fellow drivers.
John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

Has Juan Pablo Montoya's honeymoon in NASCAR ended?

Sunday at Martinsville, the Colombian rookie finished a decent 16th, while at the same time managing to anger Tony Raines, who slammed into the wall when Montoya's right front bumper hit Raines' car in the left rear.

"I don't know how he's thinking, or what his thinking is," Raines told NASCAR.com. "[Montoya's supporters] are always going to think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread and I ain't s---, but I don't come out here to wreck people. I didn't wreck him; he shouldn't have wrecked me."

Ryan Newman was a bitr more charitable, but no less irriatetd after he and Montoya jostled for position during the race, prompting Newman to seek out Montoya after the race to ask him if he had turned down on Newman on a straightaway, a charge Montoya denied. Montoya didn't help his case with Newman by hitting Newman's front tire carrier during the first set of pit stops.

"We got three wide on the back straightaway on that last restart, and he (Montoya) overdrove Turn 1," said Newman. "I thought he turned left. He said 'I just ran him out of room.' He was up against the wall. It was just racin'.'"

It's not a stinging indictment, but Newman, who has his own small share of critics, has a good enough reputation in the garage that his comments carry some weight.

And right now, those words reveal the evidence mounting that Montoya's comfort in racing in close quarters may not win him many fans on the track.

This is nothing new for Montoya, who, in his Formula One career, made a habit of not backing off.

At the Canadian Grand Prix weekend in 2001, Jacques Villeneuve said Montoya blocked him numerous times in practice. Montoya replied that the French-Canadian driver brake-tested him (i.e. stopped short). Later that weekend, the supposedly civil international series was shaken when a war of words between the two erupted into a short-lived physical brawl at a driver's meeting.

Montoya's last straw with his McLaren Mercedes team occurred when he hit his own teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, from behind in the first turn of the opening lap of the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis last June. "It's not my fault," an unhappy Raikkonen said. "It's better that you look from the replay to see. It's pretty obvious what really happened."


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