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Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Montoya's biggest mistake? Calling out crew chief

By Terry Blount
ESPN.com

Juan Pablo Montoya's biggest mistake at Mexico City wasn't punting teammate Scott Pruett to take the lead. It was calling out his crew chief after qualifying one day earlier.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Brad Parrott
Crew chief Brad Parrott, left, and driver Juan Pablo Montoya proved to be a winning combination in Mexico City despite Montoya's anger over a qualifying setup.

Brad Parrott made a setup adjustment to the No. 42 Dodge that Montoya felt caused him to lock the tires during qualifying and kept him from winning the pole for the Telcel Motorola 200 Busch race.

Montoya was furious afterward, saying, "My crew chief made a change that messed up the car."

Montoya was right and Parrott later admitted it, but this should have been kept behind closed doors.

After the victory, Parrott was emotional, saying Saturday was a tough day for him because he made a bad decision.

He tried something for qualifying and it didn't work. He was trying to make the car better. That's what crew chiefs do. But Montoya still had the fastest car in the field, thanks to Parrott and his crew.

Parrott didn't panic during the race when a fuel-hose malfunction caused the team to make an extra pit stop. They fixed it, got back out quickly and Montoya's talent helped them get back to the front.

But Montoya wouldn't have won the race without Parrott. He might want to consider that next time before throwing his crew chief under the bus.

Critical situation
Sunday at Las Vegas is a critical race for Dale Earnhardt Jr. He is 40th in the standings after the first two events.

Earnhardt said he believes the team has solved its engine problems, but Las Vegas Motor Speedway hasn't been a good track for him in the past.

Earnhardt has one top-5 finish in seven starts at Vegas. He was 27th last year, 42nd in 2005 and 35th in 2004 on the 1.5-mile oval.

However, this isn't the same track. The surface was completely rebuilt in the offseason to make the track similar to other high-banked intermediate ovals.

It's much faster, and that's good news for Earnhardt. He finished sixth or better five times last season on high-banked 1.5-mile ovals.

We love you, too
One incredible quote from a Washington state legislator shows what a tough road NASCAR has to get a track built in the Seattle area. In regard to NASCAR, Rep. Larry Seaquist said this to the Seattle Times:

"These people are not the kind of people you would want living next door to you. They'd be the ones with the junky cars in the front yard and would try to slip around the law."

Hopefully, Jeff Gordon will read this from his Manhattan apartment and chuckle while enjoying a glass of merlot.

He was the boss
Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen called his former boss, Ron Dennis, "a control freak." Raikkonen, who made the move from McLaren to Ferrari this season, made his comment last week in a newspaper at home in Finland.

Dennis, head of the McLaren F1 team, had no problem with Raikkonen's attempted dig. "I am a control freak," Dennis told PA Sport. "I don't mind attention to detail."

You can be an owner
If things work out as planned, NHRA drag racer Erica Enders may start a trend in motor sports. Enders, a Pro Stock competitor from Houston, is offering stock shares in her team.

For $49.95 you can purchase a share of Erica Enders Racing, LLC. You only can buy one share and it isn't a profit-making venture, but it has some nice perks.

Along with a hat, T-shirt and autographed photo, stockholders get access to team hospitality areas and quarterly shareholders meetings at an NHRA track.

Enders had tons of young fans nationwide before she made it to the pro ranks of drag racing. The Disney Channel made a movie four years ago called Right On Track, about Erica and her younger sister, Courtney, breaking new ground as female teenage drag racers.

What are the odds?
To no one's surprise, Roush Racing and Evernham Motorsports lost their appeals on the Daytona penalties received by the teams of Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne.

You wonder why these guys even try. Unless your team clearly was punished for something it didn't do, you have a better chance of an asteroid hitting your race car on Lap 10 at Daytona than winning an appeal of a NASCAR penalty.

Oh what a sinking feeling
Compared to how things are going for Toyota in Formula One, this NASCAR stuff is a breeze.

Ralf Schumacher, who drives one of the two Toyotas in F1, painted a dismal picture of where things stand entering this season.

"We have had a catastrophic preparation for this year," Schumacher told Germany's Bild newspaper. "There is a gap to the front that we must now work hard to close. There is no point trying to hide it. In all probability, we are going to have a difficult start to the season."

Toyota spends an estimated $400 million a year on its F1 program, but has yet to win a race in five seasons.

Racing in Nextel Cup isn't cheap, but it doesn't take that kind of money. Toyota officials aren't saying, but the entire NASCAR investment probably is around 25 percent of what the Japanese manufacturer spends in F1.

And success in Cup will come much quicker. The Camry drivers in 2007 may go winless in their inaugural season, but they won't go five years without reaching Victory Lane.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.