Jimmie Johnson Grabs Indy Win After Late Montoya Penalty
Sunday, July 26, 2009; 9:19 PM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Jimmie Johnson cashed in on the most expensive speeding ticket in NASCAR history, grabbing an improbable third victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when a penalty to Juan Pablo Montoya blew the race wide open.
In a performance that mirrored his dominating Indianapolis 500 victory nine years ago, Montoya was in cruise control as he led 116 laps and built a 5-second lead over the competition. Then NASCAR flagged him for speeding on a routine pit stop with 35 laps remaining, and the driver became unglued.
"I swear on my children and my wife that I was not speeding!" he shouted over his radio. "There is no way! Thank you NASCAR for screwing my day."
Crew chief Brian Pattie begged his driver to calm down and focus on salvaging a solid points day, to no avail.
"Don't tell me to relax, dude!" Montoya yelled. "We had this in the bag."
Indeed he did, but the penalty took him out of contention and relegated him to an 11th-place finish. Montoya, who had moved as high as sixth in the Sprint Cup standings as he ran out front, instead lost a spot and is now 10th in the race for the Chase for the championship.
The difference in his paycheck was severe: Johnson earned $448,001 for the victory, while Montoya's share of the purse was knocked down to $224,048.
The performance was reminiscent of Montoya's win in the 2000 Indy 500, when he led 167 of 200 laps in his first race at the storied track. His team celebrated his return Sunday with a retro paint scheme that duplicated that winning car, and as he clicked off lap after lap, it was deja vu for the Colombian driver.
"I was cruis[ing]. I was super fast," a calmer Montoya said after the race.
Too fast, actually.
NASCAR said the electronic timing system caught Montoya twice exceeding the limit as he drove down pit road.
"There's nothing to prove wrong," said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition. "It's about as simple math as you can use."