For the first 100 laps in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, Kyle Busch looked to be making a convincing case for his third Sprint Cup victory of the 2010 season. That is, until his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota found the wall on lap 103 after contact with the No. 42 Target Chevy of Juan Pablo Montoya.
What happened seems to be subject to interpretation. Busch fans say that Montoya wrecked him; a sentiment Busch echoed in his interview after he was released from the infield care center. Busch said:
When you’re beside somebody like that, they can move you. They have control [of] your car. And [Montoya] was too close to my side and it started turning me sideways down the straightaway without even touching me.
Non-Busch fans say that he thought he was clear of Montoya, but misjudged, resulting in the contact and accident.
The video makes it look like Busch did give Montoya room initially. Montoya moved down to get the side-draft off of Busch. At that point, Busch inexplicably moved up the track.
At first, I thought what many of the non-Busch fans are arguing: that Busch turned across Montoya’s nose, thinking he was clear of Montoya. But, listening to Busch’s spotter gives an indication that this is not the case. Busch’s spotter said:
Two-wide here. Just two. Corner [indicating Montoya was on his corner]. Hanging on your corner. Ugh, he just turned us.
His spotter never said he was clear, which makes me think that Busch didn’t think he was clear. Furthermore, his spotter told him that Montoya was hanging on the corner, which makes me question why Busch would think he was clear of Montoya when his spotter just essentially told him he wasn’t.
Also, if you watch the video replay in slow motion, it looks as if Montoya moves down, and then holds his line. A split-second later, it looks as if Busch’s car begins pulling to the right. Was it side-draft or was it Busch’s desire to put Montoya a lap down? I don’t know. But, from the looks of it, side-draft can’t be ruled out.
Before making contact with Busch, Montoya appears to move slightly up the racetrack, which I think is an indication that he did not want to turn Busch. But, he also didn’t want to lift and risk losing the Lucky Dog.
He also said over the radio that he was side-drafting Busch:
He came right in front of me. … I was side drafting him and he just turned down. … He just turned so slow in front of me, I couldn’t believe it.
When taking that into consideration, you either have to blame both Montoya and Busch or neither of them.
Should Montoya have let Busch go since he wasn’t on the lead lap? No, and no one would argue that he should considering he only went a lap down because of his scheduled pit stop. He was racing with the leaders and sought to stay on the lead lap to gain as much time on the leaders as he could.
Should Busch have let and allowed Montoya to stay in front of him? No, and again, no one would argue that he should because he hadn’t pitted. Plus, any driver will tell you that when you have the chance to put a strong car a lap down, you take it.
So, while mistakes were made in this incident, you can’t assign blame to one without assigning in to the other. And when that happens, it’s usually just easier to chalk this up to a “racing deal,” even if it involves two hyper-aggressive drivers like Montoya and Busch.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Lead-Lap.com