3 March 2012
Montoya 'lucky to have survived'
Crashing into the back of a jet dryer on track is not the sort of thing any race driver wants on his CV. But right now, Juan Pablo Montoya will settle for just being alive.
Juan Pablo Montoya's exit from the unprecedented Monday night running of the Daytona 500 made all the headlines the following day; so much so that fans would be forgiven for struggling to recall who actually went on to win the race. (Matt Kenseth, for the record.)
But Montoya's spectacular and deeply frightening crash into the back of a jet dryer, igniting the 200-gallon tank of jet fuel that it carried, was inevitably the dominant image of the night. It happened when a trailing or 'truck' arm - a piece of rear suspension - broke underneath the car, snapping the #42 to the right and sending it sliding up the banking into the jet dryer. There had been nothing Montoya could have done.
"It sucks because the car spun and I'm going 'Oh, driver's side, that's going to suck,'" he recalled. "That's the only thing. You don't think 'Oh my God I'm going to kill myself!' Nah. You go oh, that's going to hurt. It wasn't too bad.
“I think overall, people were kind of amazed that I walked out of that one," he confessed to reporters at Phoenix. "Honestly, everybody was being pretty amazed. Everyone has been really supportive and everything. The bright side is you can joke about it.
"The way I've always looked at it is, 'Either you're going to be okay or you're not,'" he added. "I don't think anyone could hit anything harder than I did ... I'm pretty lucky, to be honest."
Montoya had just been coming out of pit lane for the second time under that caution, having the car checked over because it wasn't feeling right.
"There was a vibration," he explained. "It started to feel weird because then I shifted and it depends on the RPM; it was like on or off. And I said [over the team radio] 'Look, I think there's something wrong.' We looked at everything and everything was fine. And I went out again and we had a problem with the car and that was it, you know."
“Yeah, it was the truck arm that failed," confirmed Montoya's crew chief, Chris Heroy. "In my opinion I think it was close to failing and it hadn't failed yet because the guys went underneath the car and they checked everything and they moved and pulled everything and everything was in place. It was just the loading of the car. It was just too high.”
"It wasn't the start of the season that we wanted," Montoya admitted, before going on to praise the quality of design and construction of the current Car of Tomorrow stock car. "People complained about it and it wasn't this and it wasn't that and the view and the size and the this. I'll guarantee you if we would have been in the older cars I wouldn't have been okay. So I'm pretty happy we are in these cars. It's pretty amazing what NASCAR does.”
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