Disagreements all in the past as EGR team soaks up success
For two weeks the perception has been Juan Montoya and Brian Pattie were on the verge of divorce. Yet, here they were in Watkins Glen celebrating their first win together in the Cup Series, as if there were no cracks in the team.
It just goes to show winning really is the best medicine.
It's not that the No. 42 has been struggling recently -- just the opposite, in fact. At Indy, Montoya was the class of the field, but Pattie's call to take four tires instead of two on the final pit stop ended up being the wrong decision.
Last week at Pocono, Montoya was in the position to challenge for the victory again, but another four-tire call turned out to be Montoya's undoing. On the radio, the fiery driver told his crew chief exactly how he felt about it.
Two consecutive races, two pit decisions that ultimately cost the No. 42 a shot at the victory.
There was clearly drama within the team, because team owner Chip Ganassi got the No. 42 bunch together before Sunday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen to have a talk. But any factions within the team disappeared in 90 laps in upstate New York as Pattie earned his first Cup Series victory as a crew chief and Montoya grabbed his first Cup win since 2007.
"We had a really good talk with Chip and all the boys," a jubilant Montoya said following his victory. "It was all about making sure everybody is on the same page, everybody has to do their job, and we came out [Sunday] and everybody executed."
"It's been frustrating because you could see the performance getting better and better. Even last year in the Chase -- we finished second, finished third, finished second, finished third -- that freaking win would never come, so it was getting frustrating.
"To come out and get the job done the way we did, it was big. I feel more relieved than happy right now. It's been a really hard road in a way. It's been a lot of fun; it's been frustrating. To finally get that first win for Brian, I think it's good. I think we can just focus on getting the job done."
This sport gives a driver and his team more lows than highs in a season, so the question remains: Do Montoya and Pattie have a strong enough bond that when things go wrong, this team doesn't need another visit by the owner? (Continued
The answer to that question is a resounding yes.
Montoya and Pattie haven't been together long -- since mid-2008 -- so there are going to be growing pains. But just because a driver has some harsh words for his crew chief during the race doesn't mean there is trouble on the horizon.
Listen to Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle or a host of other drivers on the radio throughout a race -- you would think those teams are in complete disarray at times. The fact is it's just the opposite. Kyle Busch and Dave Rogers are doing just fine, and the same can be said for Kurt Busch and Steve Addington and Biffle and Greg Erwin. These drivers are competitive. When things don't go their way, the crew chief gets the blunt of the verbal assault.
"You know, as competitive as I am, he's as competitive with the race car," Montoya said. "I think we both come here every weekend with one goal: win. When the wins slip away, either my fault or his fault, I think the fault doesn't really matter. When you go home empty-handed, it's frustrating.
"We have to learn how to make better judgment, myself make better calls when I'm driving, help them make better calls. I think we're really working together and understanding what needs to be done to win those races."
Pattie doesn't think the relationship between him and Montoya is strained -- regardless of how outsiders look at it.
"[Our relationship] wasn't bad to begin with," Pattie said. "When you're passionate about winning races at this level, the closer we got, the worse it got for frustration level. We've led a lot of laps, led a lot of races this year. So we're there week in and week out.
"That's what we've tried to do from 2008 on, build our organization and a team that can consistently run at this level."
It all comes down to passion -- and Montoya and Pattie have an abundance of it.
Successful teams are going to have inner turmoil; there is no escaping it. It's the nature of this sport. Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have been upset with each other plenty of times during their four title runs. But they know how to get past it and move on, keeping their common goals intact.
Montoya and Pattie are doing the same. They both have apologized for mistakes made at Indianapolis and Pocono, and both came to Watkins Glen as competitive and passionate as ever to achieve their united goal -- a win.
And win they did.
"I think this is a big relief for everybody," Montoya said. "I think getting the first win [this season] and first win for Brian, it's a big boost for the whole team. We just have to keep doing our job. I guarantee you we're going to have good weeks and bad weeks and you'll hear things on the radio -- hopefully not as much."
There may be cracks now and then, but this foundation is strong and shows no signs of crumbling.

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