Montoya-Gordon clash at Martinsville was entertaining
Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Even though Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson had a spirited battle for the win in the closing laps of Sunday's Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville, Juan Pablo Montoya's beating and banging with Jeff Gordon in the early going turned out to be more of a crowd-pleaser for the fans on hand at the flat, short track.
Montoya lived up to his reputation as being an aggressive driver when he repeatedly bumped Gordon, a seven-time Martinsville winner, for position more than 100 laps into the race. Gordon and Montoya expressed their displeasure towards one another on their team radios shortly after their duel.
"It got to a point, hey, I'm here, and you're not going to push me around," Montoya said of Gordon. "If you give me room, I'll give you room. He wasn't giving me any, so I played the same game."
After tangling with Gordon, Montoya chased down Johnson and then squeezed by him to take the lead. Montoya ran in front for 37 laps, and the fans at Martinsville were delighted with the Colombian outmuscling the Hendrick Motorsports duo.
Hamlin held off Johnson for the win, and Montoya drove to a third-place finish, his career best at Martinsville. Montoya said he approached Gordon at the conclusion of the race to assure they remain on good terms.
Juan Pablo Montoya drove to a third-place finish, his career best at Martinsville.
"I talked to him afterwards, and we're good," Montoya said.
After finishing fifth, Gordon admitted he gave Montoya some breathing room later in the race in fear of another incident between the two.
"I just tried not to make him mad anymore and race him as clean as I could," Gordon said. "I hope it's not something that transfers over, because I don't know really what I did, if I did do something."
Montoya was coming off a season-worst finish of 35th at Charlotte, which pretty much knocked him out of title contention. Despite five top-five finishes in the Chase, Montoya trails leader Johnson by 200 points with four races to go.
During his three-year Sprint Cup career, Montoya has had plenty of episodes where his aggressive driving got the best of him. Montoya tangled with Tony Stewart at Texas early in his 2007 Cup rookie season. Later that year at Watkins Glen, Montoya crashed into Kevin Harvick with a shoving match that ensued after the accident. He also clashed with Kyle Busch last year at New Hampshire.
When Montoya left the Formula One ranks, team owner Chip Ganassi hired Montoya because Ganassi felt his assertive driving would fit NASCAR.
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