LEMASTERS: Another Brickyard Slips Through Montoya’s Grasp

Ron Lemasters Sr.

There is a long list at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway of drivers whose luck kept them out of victory lane.

Nearly all are from the Indianapolis 500 — Family Andretti (with only Mario’s 1969 victory to show for three generations and 50 starts), Lloyd Ruby, Ted Horn and Duke Nalon, to name just a few.

It’s time for NASCAR to start its list…if Juan Pablo Montoya hasn’t already been forced by fate to lay claim to it.

Granted, he won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000, but this is for stock cars.

A year ago, he had the Brickyard 400 won, leading 116 of 160 laps, but ran afoul of a late-race speeding penalty on pit road.

In Sunday’s Brickyard event, he was leading when the final round of pit stops came and his team elected to take four tires and was chasing competitors that elected to take only two fresh Goodyears. Things got worse for Montoya when he bounced off the wall and collected fan favorite Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the process.

For the second year in a row he saw the victory elude him, and his post-crash reaction was reflective of a second-straight turn of bad luck that deprived him of arguably the second most coveted winner’s trophy in NASCAR.

He drove the battered No. 42 Target Chevrolet straight through the garage area to the hauler, climbed out and walked to his motor home, trailed by a gaggle of media who were told he would not comment on the turn of events.

Even the media from Colombia were shunned.

Shades of the Sports Illustrated jinx, Sunday morning’s editions of the Indianapolis Star carried a Brickyard 400 special section featuring a picture of a smiling Montoya with the following caption: “Sitting Pretty — Juan Pablo Montoya grabs the pole, looks to knock off Jimmie Johnson and make history for Chip Ganassi.”

It didn’t happen quite that way.

Yes, Montoya won the pole, but Johnson knocked himself out of contention for the victory.

But the history Chip made came compliments of Montoya’s teammate, Jamie McMurray, who backed up his Daytona 500 trophy with one from the Brickyard 400.

Back at Indianapolis this year, Montoya, who was vociferous in his denial of the speeding charge last year, was quick to cut off conversations on the subject on this race weekend.

He said nothing beyond a terse “no comment” to anyone, marching quickly to his motor home, then to the helipad for a quick retreat.

Asked in the winner’s interview what he would say to Montoya and crew chief Brian Pattie, Ganassi offered this: “They should have taken two.”

On the face of it, was Ganassi second-guessing the final pit stop, when Pattie elected to put on four tires?

Or did Chip cut to the bottom line and remind Montoya that, if not for luck, he should have been a two-time Brickyard 400 winner on that Sunday afternoon?

Chances of a detailed review in 2011 of his results in the first two of Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s three-year Centennial celebration are no more likely than a frosty morning on Brickyard 400 weekend.