Juan Pablo Montoya looked like he was well on his way to becoming the first driver to ever win both the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400.
Then the speed traps on pit lane took over and settled the matter, overshadowing a performance that up until that point was indeed flawless and without challenge.
The 2000 Indy 500 winner had everyone covered and looked to be cruising to an easy victory until he pitted on lap 125 for what looked to be his final stop on the way to an easy victory.
But NASCAR found Montoya to be just over the maximum speed limit of 55 miles per hour allowed on pit road, and accessed a ruling that forced Montoya to pull back into the pit area for a drive through penalty that ended his dominating performance. In the process, it allowed defending Brickyard 400 champion, Jimmie Johnson to win a race that clearly had Montoya’s name written all over the coveted trophy.
Johnson overcame pole sitter Mark Martin on lap 136 during a restart and never looked back in taking the checkered flag at the Brickyard for the third time in the last four years, and in the process becoming the first driver to win consecutive races since the inception of the event in 1994. Tony Stewart finished third while Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers rounded out the top five.
But the celebration in victory lane was largely overshadowed by the throng of reporters who were seeking comment from a despondent Montoya who despite everything, was incredibly calm considering that he may have just been robbed of a victory.
“I thought I was on the speed,” said Montoya. “We have lights on the dashboard to warn us and I was on the lights every time. Why would I speed with such a big lead?”
While Montoya had his doubts, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton did not share them.
“It’s clocked by computer and it’s timed over distance,” stated Pemberton. He added, “It has never been proven wrong because there is nothing to prove wrong.”
While the tire fiasco of the 2008 Brickyard was on the mind of everyone, Goodyear proved that all their testing since last year was indeed successful, as there were no issues at all with tires.
Despite the improved tires, the race was down right boring and proved to be a single file procession all day, with track position being determined by pit stops instead of passing on the race track.
A few passes were made on restarts, but in all, passing was virtually non-existent and the show suffered greatly as a result.
Notes: The announced attendance for the race was 180,000.
While that is still the largest crowd that will view a NASCAR race this year, it certainly pales in comparison to the previous attendance records set at IMS for this event.
ESPN did NASCAR and IMS a huge favor by not showing the large numbers of empty seats with their blimp camera.
Jimmie Johnson, who is seeking a record fourth straight series championship, picked up $448,000 for the win.
Tony George continues to release various comments about his tenure as IMS Corporation President on his racing team’s Web site, which can be accessed at www.visionracing.com. His latest posting calls for a reason to be given for his dismissal and even includes a confusing quote from his sister.
Strange happenings indeed now of days at IMS. Stay tuned.
Danny Bridges, who feels NASCAR stole the race from Juan Montoya, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or [email protected].