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DOVER, Del. -- It's not easy being a non-Chaser.
Martin Truex Jr. won the pole last weekend at Dover and reporters had to search for questions to make him relevant. David Ragan was questioned during qualifying but mostly about if he has a ride in 2012, which he doesn't and may not get if sponsorship issues don't improve at Roush Fenway Racing.
Did anybody notice that Greg Biffle finished third at New Hampshire? Or that non-Chasers led 151 of 300 laps at New Hampshire? Or that Kasey Kahne has an average finish of 10.3 in the Chase, only three-tenths off that of five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson?
About the only way a non-Chaser can get attention during the final 10 races is if he wrecks a Chaser or if he wrecks a Chaser.
That Chase drivers took the first six spots at Chicago, the first two at New Hampshire and the top three at Dover makes life outside of NASCAR's playoff even more taxing.
This is the only sport in which teams not in the party are invited to the party, albeit they are asked to stand in the corner and watch.
|Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya hang out in the garage, a place where honest answers can be hard to come by.|
So in an effort to be fair I spent some time at Dover with Juan Pablo Montoya, a member of the 2009 Chase class who is 19th in points this season. The Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver sweetened the pot by agreeing to honestly -- that's a key word in a garage where competitors often talk out of both sides of their mouth -- answer any 10 questions I wanted.
He even allowed a few bonus questions when his answers needed a follow.
Can you imagine Tony Stewart doing that? Stewart probably could garner more attention during the Chase for calling a question dumb than a non-Chaser could for winning a race.
That's too bad. There are a lot of personalities that get overlooked in the Chase, and Montoya is one of them.
So enjoy this non-Chase moment. They don't happen very often.
Q. How would you analyze the Chase thus far if you were an ESPN.com reporter?
A. You want an honest answer on all that s---? It's hard because reporters nowadays are all about seeing a little wound and taking a knife and digging deeper and seeing if you can get down to where you want for good exposure. I don't agree with that. A true report, I think there's a lot of wrecks waiting to happen. Is the 48 [Jimmie Johnson] the car to beat? He'll be there at the end. I don't know if he'll win it, but I'll guarantee by the time Homestead comes, he'll have a shot.
Q. Do you have more in common with Tony Stewart or Ryan Newman, and why?
A. I would say Tony is a nicer guy (he laughs). Tony is more like me in the way we love racing. We do this because we love it. We don't take s---. It seems like we take things personal, but we really don't.
Q. You're an avid golfer. Would you rather win the Sprint Cup title or the Masters?
A. That's easy. The Sprint Cup. If I played golf for a living, I would say the Masters. If I had already won the Sprint Cup title, I probably would say the Masters. I haven't played golf too much lately. It's been too hot in Miami.
Q. Is the garage more full of truth or bull?
A. Oh, bulls---. Absolutely. I tell you the truth, there is more bulls--- in the motor coach lot than in the garage.
Q. Such as?
A. From I've lost my job to I'm firing my bus driver to this guy was with that girl to that girl did that guy. A little People magazine driver lot edition.
Q. If you had a free shot at any car in the garage, which would it be?
A. I think the 24.
Q. Jeff Gordon?
A. Yeah, the way he drives and everything fits my style better than anybody else. I'm really happy where I am and everything, but it would be interesting.
Q. You misunderstood. By free shot, who would you go after in your car?
A. Oh! When I do, you'll know. If you look at the last 15 races, you would know.
Q. So it would be Ryan Newman, with whom you had a run-in at Richmond that led to a trip -- and apparently punches thrown -- in the NASCAR hauler at Darlington?
A. Oh, no. We're pretty square there.
Q. If you could be Danica Patrick for a day, what would you do?
A. I would wreck a lot of people that talked bad about me. There's a lot of people out there that should get punted by her. If I were in her shoes I would have done it by now. (This was his second answer. His first was too honest for here.)
Q. If I looked in your motor coach refrigerator, what would I find?
A. I actually eat pretty healthy. Water, orange juice, Gatorade, diet sodas.
Q. So why do you have this reputation for being a fast-food junkie?
A. I had a deal with my trainer in Formula One that when I won a race I could have [fast food]. So I would have probably four or five a year, and that diet was really bad.
Q. If there was a movie on your life, who would play you?
A. I don't know.
Q. How about Charlie Sheen?
A. F--- you! He's a cool guy, but he's way out there. I'm a mixture of a Charlie Sheen and the British actor (Jason Statham) that did the "Transporter'' movie. I'm all about being on time. That really drives me insane about being on time. If I'm five minutes late to something I'll call and say, "Oooh! I'm late!"
Q. So would you go 128 mph on a rural North Carolina road as Kyle Busch did to make up time?
A. At his age? He's going too slow; 128 mph sounds really fast, but like, I lived in Europe. There are roads there where you can drive as freaking fast as you wanted. I used to be out of control. I'm mellow on the road now.
Q. What five things are on your to-do list?
A. Like what you guys call your bucket list? I don't have the balls to parachute. I've been in a fighter jet in England, but I've never been in one here. I don't know.
Q. Maybe win a Cup title?
A. Yeah, but that's different. That's what I'm here to do. I'm here to win every f------ week. Every time I come to a track and the car is bad Vince (he yells to an employee)! How pissed off was I yesterday after the first run? I was mother------ everybody. I was. We're getting better and our cars are getting better, but I find it unacceptable that our cars are that far off. It gets you behind and it's frustrating. I want to win so badly that I drive so hard every freaking week. It's hard.
Q. How hard is it not being in the Chase?
A. It's disappointing. But when you have three or four weeks where you run 30th or worse, there's no chance to make the Chase. We fell behind at the beginning of the year and we're still behind.
Q. So really, what happened in the NASCAR hauler with Ryan Newman at Darlington?
A. Nothing (he laughs).
So much for honesty.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DNewtonespn.