Is Montoya/Newman tiff really settled?

May, 6, 2011

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman met with NASCAR officials Friday at Darlington Raceway to discuss the issues they had during last weekend's Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway.

It was long overdue and it didn't go as planned.

"The meeting didn't go as well as we had hoped it would and we're not completely through with this issue," said NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp.

So what happened Friday? Rumors are swirling things got physical, but neither driver, nor NASCAR, would confirm that.

The two have had conflicts since Newman got into the back of the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver and turned his car into a mangled fireball in Montoya's Sprint Cup debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2006.

By Montoya's account, Newman had taken him out three times -- Homestead once and Richmond twice -- before he wrecked Newman at Richmond in retaliation for an earlier incident in which the Stewart-Haas driver put him into the wall.

NASCAR's only Colombian-born driver reminded us that until he retaliated at Richmond, he'd never done anything wrong to Newman. Newman, meanwhile, would argue he never has done anything wrong to Montoya, other than race him hard.

A mediation definitely was in order, particularly after Newman spent 30 minutes in the NASCAR hauler after the Richmond race discussing the issue.

"I've been wrecked by him a lot of times," Montoya said. "I've never done anything about it. I felt it was [time]."

Many are wondering if Newman will seek further retaliation Saturday night at Darlington Raceway. Probably not.

But is it really ever over?

"I don't think once you have an issue it's ever over in what we do," said Newman, adding that all his respect for Montoya went out the window at Richmond.

If either has any hope of winning a title this year or any other year, they need to get over whatever is causing them to race each other tighter than most. One more retaliation over the next 17 races could be the difference between making or not making the Chase.

One retaliation during the Chase could mean the difference between winning and not winning the title.

"Boys, have at it" sounds fine in principal. It's entertaining for the fans. But if these two continue to have at it they won't have a chance for the prize they covet most.

"That's the thing they need to realize, both of them," said three-time Cup champion Darrell Waltrip, who ticked off his share of drivers during his career. "You can't hold grudges against people. You have to control that if you're trying to win a race or a championship.

"That might feel good when you're doing it, and you might feel like you've accomplished something when you spin the other guy out. But that's where the crew chief and owner and all those guys have to get involved and say, 'Look, you're killing us.'"

Newman and Montoya are killing each other because they're both stubborn drivers with a you-wreck-me-and-I'll-wreck-you-back mentality. It's good for ratings but not good for their careers.

Newman, in a contract year, dropped a spot to eighth in the standings with his 20th-place finish at Richmond. Montoya, also in a contract year, fell from ninth to 12th in points with a 29th-place finish.

Maybe their meeting with NASCAR will settle this. They both seem to get it despite all this talk about lost respect.

"The big picture is always the points," Montoya said. "We're here to score big points to make the Chase. You're only here to make the Chase."

And holding grudges won't get you there.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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