Montoya's penalty the pits

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

It is hard to believe that Juan Pablo Montoya was speeding in the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet at the Brickyard 400 this past week once, let alone twice.

This is, after all, an athlete who has hundreds of races on his resume and has become the poster boy for former Formula One drivers who want to try NASCAR.

Yet the proof was irrefutable. Montoya was caught going 60.6 m.p.h. and later 60.11 m.p.h. on a trip down pit lane where the speed limit is 50 m.p.h.

For his transgression, Montoya was given a drive-through penalty that moved him from first to 12th with just 25 laps top go and effectively stole the win from an EGR team that had dominated the proceedings to that point.

Why, you might ask, is this particular case any different from any of the many similar speeding penalties handed down by NASCAR officials over a season?

Because the successes of the Colombian-born racer are being nurtured by just about everybody in NASCAR. The thought of Montoya achieving greatness in the series has NASCAR bosses positively drooling at the thought of plugging into an American market of close to 40 million Hispanics.

A day after the race, even NASCAR chairman Brian France was lamenting that the win was taken away because of a penalty.

"There's nothing that dropped our hearts more than to see that speeding violation flash up on the computer," France told SIRIUS satellite radio. "Nothing would have made us happier had he earned -- and he definitely had the best car and he was driving the wheels off -- to have (had Montoya) won that race and made a little history with the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400. But the rules are rules."

The maddening thing is that the blame rests totally on the shoulders of Montoya, in spite of his protestations after the incident.

"Thank you, NASCAR, for screwing my day," Montoya said on his in-car radio. "We had it in the bag and they screwed us because I was not speeding. I swear on my children and my wife."

The only possible explanation is that the green light that signals the car is under the speed limit was malfunctioning at the time of the infraction because Montoya swears it was flashing on.

But in the bigger picture it looks as though Montoya -- in 10th place with six races left before the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship -- will make the post-season cut.

That alone should bring out hordes of his rabid fans and have NASCAR bosses smiling once more.

Massa's miracle

Just days after dire predictions that Felipe Massa never would recover from a tragic accident during F-1 qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix, his doctors now say he should be able to walk out of hospital under his power by the end of next week.

Dr. Peter Bazso, the medical director of the military hospital where Massa was taken after his skull was fractured, told Hungarian TV channel M1: "My expectation is that he would walk out of the hospital on his own. If his recovery continues at this pace, I wouldn't rule out that he could leave within 10 days."

Although Massa's condition was massively better than immediately reported after being struck on the head from a spring that broke loose from Rubens Barricello's Brawn GP car at 120 m.p.h., Dr. Bazso said it was still too early to know what the lasting effects of his injuries might be.

"I would like to point out that although he's recovering, this is not the end of the story, he is still in a life-threatening condition," Dr. Bazso said. "Of course, the danger is decreasing by the day."

Canadian corner

Roxton Pond, Que., native Andrew Ranger drove the No. 27 Dave Jacombs Racing Ford to victory at the Rexall Edmonton Indy Canadian Tire 200, putting him in first place in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series standings.

Finish lines

The Indianapolis Star is reporting that IMS officials have discussed staging a Sprint Cup exhibition race on the Indy road course with NASCAR and Grand Am's sports cars later this season. The road course will begin to be installed next week for the Aug. 28-30 motorcycle event, the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix ... Michael Schumacher's manager Willi Weber has quashed rumours that the seven-time world champion could make a return to Formula One in place of the injured Massa for Ferrari.


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