Bruce Martin, Special to Motorsport.com
INDIANAPOLIS – Just what the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series needed for its inaugural race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – a feud between Juan Pablo Montoya of Chip Ganassi Racing and the entire Starworks team.
With only two teams left in contention to win the North American Endurance Championship (Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Six Hours at the Glen and the Brickyard Grand Prix), Montoya was racing side-by-side with Ryan Dalziel late in the race when there was contact between the two cars. Montoya stayed on track and drove the Chevron BMW Riley to a fourth-place finish but Dalziel’s Ford Riley was knocked into the sand pit and was out of the race. Although the other Starworks entry driven by Sebastien Bourdais and Alex Popow won the race to clinch the endurance championship, it hurts the No. 8 Starworks entry in its battle for the season title.
You didn’t have to be Nostradamus to see that was going to happen.
That sent team owner Peter Baron into a rage saying that he had complained to GRAND-AM officials about Montoya before the event; that he was concerned he was being used as a bullet to take out his team from contending with Ganassi’s bigger, more well-funded effort.
“You didn’t have to be Nostradamus to see that was going to happen,” Baron said.
After the race was over, driver Enzo Potolicchio of Venezuela marched down to Colombian driver Montoya pointed his finger and said something in Spanish.
When Motorsport.com asked Potolicchio what he said to Montoya, the Venezuelan gave a pointed comment.
“I told him he’s trash in Spanish because he is,” Potolicchio said. “Chip Ganassi sent him to win a championship. Where we were winning the Endurance Championship and the points lead and they ruined our championship. They needed an asshole like that to ruin our race. We told GRAND-AM what was going to happen and it happened, perfectly. It was all staged and it happened perfectly. They did it late enough that they couldn’t do anything. They waited until the right chance to hit us and they hit us.
“It’s sad that it happened. Ganassi is big enough that they don’t need to do that. GRAND-AM is not a sanctioning body; it’s a joke. Our team and Michael Shank are the only private team in the series – everybody else is paid by the series to race. We are the only team that comes here and brings legit sponsors from our own countries to race. Those guys hit every car in the series and don’t get penalties. In the position we were in the championship lead and it was a big deal. They brought in another car to take care of us.”
Although one of his cars won the race team owner Baron was still pretty direct in what he saw happen to his other car that ended up 17th after the crash.
“I hope GRAND-AM is going to do something about it,” Baron said. “In the heat of the moment the race was yellow and you can’t pass another driver under yellow. I’ve sent emails to GRAND-AM saying he comes in and doesn’t give a (profanity) about it. I told them it was going to happen and it happened but that’s a Christmas card list I don’t want to be on.”
Montoya, who became the only driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500 (winner in 2000), the United States Grand Prix (2001-2006), the Brickyard 400 (2007-present) and the GRAND-AM Brickyard Grand Prix, believes he did nothing wrong and that Dalziel turned into his car.
“If you are beside somebody and turn into them you are going to get into trouble,” Montoya said. “The 2 car (the other Starworks entry that won the race) is one of those. He hit me and nearly spun me. I didn’t do anything. I took it as a man. The only thing I did out of that was learn from it.
“I’m aggressive and I’m not racing for points. If I’m not racing for points and you are saving fuel and I want to win the race what am I going to do? Am I going to sit beside you and lift?
Montoya once called the IMS Road Course “Mickey Mouse” but believed the GRAND-AM car was much better on this layout than the faster Formula One cars that he drove here in the United States Grand Prix. But Montoya believes he was not at fault for the incident that led to the war of words during and after the race.
“I got beside him and he didn’t give me any room,” Montoya said. “When people get beside me they pass me. But what am I supposed to do? If you don’t learn from other people you shouldn’t be here. We raced hard and I felt like I was there when we touched. I don’t have to get out of the way. I was there and twice I braked beside him. He just braked into me and pushed me.
“You either take it as a man or you don’t.”