<
>

Montoya win wasn't the kind to brag about

PIT PASS

By Rupen Fofaria, Special to ESPN.com

I'm eager to see Juan Pablo Montoya succeed in NASCAR, but not like this.

What we witnessed in Mexico City was concurrent proof that Montoya can be a success in elite stock-car racing, but he needs a little more time.

The former Formula One star has raced a handful of NASCAR events: three in Nextel Cup, seven in Busch. With time, he'll realize that, given the superior car he was piloting, the proper thing to have done on Sunday was to exercise patience and beat teammate Scott Pruett with his talent and equipment, not his fender.

Denny Hamlin, who won the 2006 Mexico race, had the best seat in the house for the run-in.

"I wouldn't call it dirty driving, but it was a bit aggressive," Hamlin told reporters in Mexico. "Juan had the fastest car and he would have taken the lead sooner or later. He was overzealous."

For Montoya fans, a fast-growing throng, this was a great thing. It was an open-wheeler making use of his sheet metal to "Dale Earnhardt" his way to a win.

If you think back, though, before Earnhardt was martyred and wings were clipped to his No. 3, he didn't make too many friends early on in his career.

Montoya's in that period where he's establishing a driving style and letting the other drivers in the garage know how they should expect to be raced and, in turn, how they should approach racing him. It'll be interesting to see whether Sunday's move will affect Montoya down the road.

Rupen Fofaria is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
He can be reached at rupenisracin@yahoo.com.

RUNNING THE NUMBERS
KEY STAT
7.445 Three races into the Busch Series season, that's Carl Edwards' impressive average running position -- best in the series.

FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED AT MEXICO CITY
1. MONTOYA'S GOT SKILLS
Juan Pablo Montoya may have stirred controversy getting to Victory Lane -- but he got there. And even his controversial move did show an uncommon command of the stock car for a guy racing in just his 10th NASCAR event.

2. NOT PACKING THEM IN
NASCAR has faced sagging attendance since its boom in the early part of this decade, a truth it faced as squarely in Mexico as it has anywhere in the U.S. In the first year of the three-year Mexico City contract, the stands were packed and the fans were rabid. On Sunday, the fans that came remained vocal, but they appeared to be fewer in number. The three-year contract with the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez track expired after Sunday's race.

3. HAMLIN EMERGING AS ROAD-RACE ACE
After winning last year's event at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez road course, Hamlin finished runner-up Sunday. Add that to one top-10 in two Nextel Cup road races and it's safe to say that Boris Said won't be replacing Hamlin for any road-race events in the future.

4. SAID AND PRUETT IMPRESS
Said and Scott Pruett solidified their hopes of getting temporary contracts with second-tier teams looking to get their sponsors some coverage at Sonoma and Watkins Glen -- the Cup Series' two road courses. Said finished third and Pruett finished fifth after the Montoya incident.

5. AMBROSE HAS THE GIFT
Australian rookie Marcos Ambrose has a lot of road-racing experience from back home. The question is whether he can follow his first top-10 of the season with continued success as the Busch Series heads to one of the many intermediate tracks on its season slate: Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

This Latino piloto is muy bueno. He's also a little wild and crazy when he wants to get to the front.

Juan Pablo Montoya just became Dale Earnhardt Sr. with a Spanish accent.

Terry Blount

MONDAY'S PODCAST

There's plenty to talk about coming out of Mexico City, and with Las Vegas on tap, Pat Patterson catches up on all the story lines.

RaceDay

MONDAY'S MOTION

Montoya rolls in Mexico City

PRUETT'S SHAKING HIS FIST AT …

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA

Is there really any doubt who should be mad here?

That much is obvious. How it will impact the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammates down the road remains to be seen, but for now Pruett is seething.

"Of all the people to take out -- your teammate," Pruett told a live TV audience. "That was just lowdown, nasty, dirty driving."

HE SAID IT

"I've been saying it from the beginning, in two years, [Montoya will] be like a Tony Stewart. Before long, he'll be competitive everywhere he goes. He's that good."

Boris Said

WE'RE OFF TO …

LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Sin City and a track rebuilt so thoroughly it's practically undiscovered territory.

In case you didn't come up with a plan for what to do in Vegas, no worries. Vegas will have plans for you.

ESPN Travel