Fourth Turn – Allstate Brickyard 400

Speedway, In – It’s always a tough call when a driver gets penalized for speeding in the pits during a race. Most drivers react with surprise and usually deny that they were going too fast. Juan Pablo Montoya is one of those surprised competitors who led a dominant 116 laps and then fell to 12th after “The Penalty” in the closing laps of today’s Allstate Brickyard 400. “It kind of sucks. But it is what it is. I thought I was on the speed. We got lights. I was on the lights every time. I was where I was on the previous one and they say I was speeding. We haven’t had to deal with that before,” said the Target/Ganassi pilot. “Once it happens, you can’t change it. It’s pretty frustrating. It reminded me of the last time I led here (Indy 500-2000.)It was kind of easy to be honest. I was cruising. I was stupid fast.” NASCAR reported that even with “giving” 5mph over the pit road speed limit, that Montoya was just over the number in two timed sections. Despite dropping from first to a finish of 11th, Montoya continued to earn the respect of his fellow competitors: “I firmly believe that if that (the speeding penalty) didn’t happen, we were all going to have a hard time with him for sure. He never was challenged all day to be able to accomplish what he would have accomplished today; just a remarkable feat,” said third-place finisher Tony Stewart. “It would have been a great story.” Mark Martin agreed, saying, “If I or my teammates couldn’t have won the race, I was absolutely pulling for Juan. They sure had the car today.” Montoya fell from 9th to 10th in points, but remains in contention to compete in The Chase for the Sprint Cup.

* The headline-making tire issue that marred the 2008 running of the Brickyard 400 was solved by Goodyear in 2009, as extensive testing resulted in a tire that could go over 30 laps as opposed to 10 lap runs last year.”This tire, the way it reacted, was very consistent through the run,” said runner-up Mark Martin. The Speedway hopes that a solid, competitive race like today’s will bring fans back now that tire wear is no longer an issue.

* Brickyard rookie Joey Logano had a good view of the final laps of today’s race, battling the penalized Montoya for position as he tried to work his way past Logano in a 20-lap struggle for a top-ten finish. “He had a good car. My car took off better than his did. I was able to get around him on the restart. I was trying to run down the 17 car (Kenseth) for all I was worth. Eventually I wore out the right front tire, and then Juan came,” said the 19-year old who finished 12th, just behind Montoya. “Every spot is a big deal. I think we had fun. We raced each other hard, but pretty clean, too.”

* Raceday Notes: On a day when the focus of fans and media should be on the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, the Media Center here at the Speedway was buzzing over a letter posted by former Speedway CEO and IRL founder Tony George on his Vision Racing website. Written as a follow up to an official statement printed on that website July 10th, the letter, titled “Settling In,” notes the tough road that was followed to bring unification to American open-wheel racing in 2008, noting also the challenges that a failing economy have had on the sport. George especially explains that “I don’t think it is a secret that most Indy Car and Champ Car teams have relied heavily on financial support from series owners to fund or subsidize their operations over the last 5 years . (and) contrary to popular belief, our family does not have an endless supply of cash to continue to pour into the League in the form of subsidy. Rather, it is incumbent on the league to provide the leadership expected during this challenging economic time to grow the business, to grow the sport, and to position it for success in the future.” George also used the word “perplexed” to describe how he felt after being ousted as the CEO of the Speedway. “To date, I have not received a reasonable explanation as to why; the statement they released to the press not withstanding, I feel as though after 20 years I am entitled to one. I understand that maybe they don’t feel that they owe me an explanation.”

And, as to the people who have been chosen to replace him, George responds: “My question to the board has not been one of who is going to manage the company, but rather, who is going to lead it? There is a distinction.”

For anyone who is a follower of the 500, the Indianapolis Speedway or the current state of open-wheel racing in America, the George statement is must reading at the Vision Racing website.

One interesting note: As originally posted, the statement ended by saying that a second part, entitled “When a High Road Leads to a Cliff” would follow soon. Within an hour, that part of the statement was taken off. The soap opera continues.

* It was generally agreed that the crowd for the Allstate Brickyard 400 was larger than most pre-race pundits expected. The general feeling was that due to the tire issues of 2008 that made for a poor race, coupled with the downturn in the economy, that a crowd of 175,000 would be a win for the Speedway. Yes, the stands on the two short chutes were less than full, but overall, good race day weather probably gave the event the best crowd that could have been hoped for. And remember, strong attendance for this race and for the Red Bull Moto GP, help support the running of the 500 and the operation of the IRL at a time when that is sorely needed.

* Juan Pablo Montoya has now led laps in the Indianapolis 500 (167 in 2000), United States Grand Prix (two in 2001) and dominated most of today’s Allstate 400 leading 116 laps. Montoya has earned the respect of many drivers in the field for staying in NASCAR after a rough start during his early years after switching over from Formula One in 2006.

Share Button