Montoya Gets First Penalty, New Home

Tuesday, May 1st 2007, 5:22 pm
By: News On 6

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Juan Pablo Montoya got his first glimpse of NASCAR's heavy hand when the first-year driver was fined $10,000 for making an obscene gesture on live television.

Montoya raised his middle finger to the camera mounted inside his car after a practice session two races ago in Phoenix. He said the gesture was a joke with the TV crew that had been following him the past month for an news special.

But the feed was live, and NASCAR penalizes drivers who use obscene language or gestures on TV. So Montoya received his first punishment since leaving Formula One to join NASCAR last summer. He also was placed on probation through the end of the year. The Colombian apologized for the gesture and doesn't want to discuss it.

``I am done thinking about that, to be honest,'' he shrugged. ``Honestly, I don't even care.''

Even when his refusal to debate the punishment offered a glimpse of a slight irritation, Montoya closed the subject.

``It's their decision, and I'll leave it at that,'' he said. ``If that's what they want to do, then that's what they want to. I am not going to say whether I agree with it or not. I don't care.''

Montoya's gesture was forgotten by the time he arrived last Friday at Talladega Superspeedway, where the attention had shifted to Tony Stewart's remarks likening NASCAR to pro wrestling. Those comments landed the champion in a heap of trouble on the same morning he and Montoya participated in a news conference.

Stewart arrived 15 minutes early, humbly recanted all his remarks, then shifted gears to welcome Montoya. Although the two temperamental drivers had clashed two weeks earlier on-track in Texas, they laughed and joked as they announced Montoya would make his dirt-racing debut in a charity event at Stewart's Ohio track.

``It's a good cause to help foundations, that's why I do it,'' Montoya said. ``If it was normal circumstances and just 'Come race on dirt,' I would say no. But it's charity.''

OK, but what about Stewart? Montoya wouldn't bite.

``I have no comment for that, either. What do you want me to say?'' he said. ``At the end of the day, NASCAR makes a decision whether you like it or not. If you don't like it, go race somewhere else. That's all you can do.''

Montoya had hoped for a big weekend at Talladega, where he made his stock-car debut in an ARCA race last October. He was seventh in Saturday's Busch Series race and wasn't bad the next day in the Nextel Cup event. But something broke in his suspension, and his car shot into the wall. He finished 31st.

Entering Richmond, he's 19th in the Nextel Cup standings and 12th in the Busch Series standings. He has a four-point lead over David Ragan in the Cup rookie standings.

Montoya skipped the notorious Talladega infield, which draws many curious drivers into its rowdy parties. Instead, he and 2-year-old son Sebastian accompanied teammate David Stremme across the street to the famed Talladega dirt track.

``It was really cool to see the cars and a couple of Stremme's boys race there, so it was fun,'' he said. ``When we sat down in the grandstands, Sebastian was all pumped up and into it.''


Montoya sat down for a short Q&A with AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer:

Q: So you're going to race on dirt for the first time in Tony's charity race, and the field is going to be full of Nextel Cup drivers. How difficult do you think it will be?

JPM: ``I think it will be fun. I will just go there and enjoy myself and look to make something good about it.''

Q: Last week, (wife) Connie and your foundation, Formula Smiles, was runner-up for the International Award to Solidarity in Sports. That's a pretty prestigious award in Spain ... (Note: The foundation builds playgrounds and establishes sports programs in Colombia.)

JPM: ``Oh yes, that was great for the foundation and shows that people are paying attention to what we are doing. It's good for the future and means we can help even more people.''

Q: Did you go with her to the event?

JPM: ``No, just Connie went. I was a little busy.''

Q: You got your new motorhome this week and I know you designed it yourself when you and (wife) Connie picked it out last fall. How is it?

JPM: ``The other one we had was nice, but this one, they did an amazing job. Just amazing. It really has everything we wanted.''

Q: What's the best part?

JPM: ``The home theater.''

Q: Home theater? How does that work in a motorhome?

JPM: ``How? The screen comes down, the projector turns on, illuminate it, and it shows what's happening.''

Q: But is it common to have a home theater in a motorhome?

JPM: ``No, I don't think so. But it's really cool. We watched a really great movie the other night, can't remember the name. DiCaprio was in it.''

Q: The Departed?

JPM: ``Yes! Really great movie. What a crazy ending.''

Q: So how many TVs total?

JPM: ``Six and the projection. It's perfect.''