I was hoping Monty would have put up more of a fight and blocked Smoke. I understand why he didn't, wouldn't have been smart racing, but still. It would have been exciting, especially if Gordon got to them.
He did. Well, he protected the bottom. Montoya knew he was way slower than Smoke, and Smoke knew he was faster. So Montoya made himself as difficult to pass as possible (but not Newman or Rusty Wallace level of hard) by taking away Smoke's line.
The fact that Smoke was able to pass Montoya even though Montoya was using the preferred line tells you how much faster Smoke was, and therefore how futile any attempts at blocking would be.
Montoya actually did an excellent job to keep Gordon behind him.
Stewart even said at the end that it was great being able to race past Montoya and that Juan made it difficult for him.
I got a question though. I can't figure out why JJ just didn't give Monty the spot back on the restart. Regardless of if he believes the 42 didn't get going, he knows he can't beat the leader to the line. Usually if a driver gives the position back within a lap or two, they don't penalize you. Surely JJ and Co didn't think they'd get away with it if they just pretended nothing happened. As solid as the 48 was, he could have gave the spot back and passed him 2 laps later.
If I remember this correctly, JJ told his crew chief that he tried to give it back to Juan but JPM was so slow on the start he couldn't. This was a radio conversation a couple of laps after that start, right when he was told he was in trouble and right before they showed him the black flag.
Based on my recollections and theories, I have an idea.
First of all my recollections are:
- From replays, JJ passed Montoya entering the restart zone
- Montoya complained on the first lap of the restart about the tyres. Just said "freaking rear tyres!" or something, about halfway through that first lap
- JJ in the post-race interview said "I don't know if Juan had a problem, if he broke something or spun the tyres or what."
- JJ in the post-race interview said his team told him to forget about it and just keep driving and not try to give the spot back.
Great drivers like JJ use all their senses. Not just sight. I think that Juan actually meant to restart early, to try to get a jump. But he spun the tyres. I think JJ heard
Juan restart and that's why he went. And I think Montoya spun his tyres pretty badly. That's why he said after that he didn't know if Montoya broke something or had a problem or what--because what he heard didn't jive with how fast Montoya accelerated. Once they both passed the restart zone, Montoya was definitely on it, he tried to catch JJ and was pissed that JJ was ahead and that he muffed the restart.
But the penalty is because JJ passed Montoya ENTERING the restart zone. I don't have any replay links but I saw enough replays that it was obvious that JJ was ahead through the restart zone. Certainly by the end of it.
I don't know if the team maybe saw it differently or what or just were going to let it play out. Maybe they had too big of a lead to safely let just one car by.
I did not hear the radio conversation after the start about JJ maybe giving the spot back. I think that has to happen immediately, like within the first lap for sure.