Monday, July 7, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: Is Montoya the Greatest of this Generation?

From sun baked Pocono to the slippery high banks of Daytona and the historic grounds of Silverstone, the weekend left with a lot on the mind. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Is Juan Pablo Montoya the Greatest of this Generation?
The Colombian went 5040 days between IndyCar victories. In that interim, Montoya won seven  grand prix, thirteen poles, thirty podiums and scored twelve fastest laps in Formula One driving for Williams and McLaren, going toe-to-toe with Michael Schumacher, Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso.

He made a bold switch to NASCAR in the middle of 2006, won two Cup races, one Nationwide race, had 24 Cup top fives, 59 Cup top tens, nine Cup pole positions and finished eighth in the Cup series in 2009.

Let's not forget Montoya is a three-time winner of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Only Hurley Haywood, Scott Pruett, Peter Gregg, Pedro Rodríguez, Rolf Stommelen and Bob Wollek have more and he is tied with Derek Bell, Butch Leitzinger, Brian Redman, Memo Rojas and Andy Wallace at three.

If he was from Columbia, South Carolina or Columbia, Missouri and his name was Jack Moore, he would be hailed as this generations A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti or Dan Gurney. Montoya has done what we all wish this generation of drivers would do: Branch out. Run everything and anything. Don't let the modern world of ironclad contracts get in the way of being a race car driver.

If you take the last twenty years, name me a driver who has accomplished more over the variety of disciplines Montoya has? While he has never dominated a series like Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have in Formula One, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson in NASCAR or Sébastien Loeb in World Rally but Montoya has found success going out of series that become comfort zones. He is ruthless in what ever he drives. He doesn't care who his competitors are of what they have done before, he races everyone to the limit in whatever he gets in.

Montoya might not always have had the best attitude but when it comes to talent, he should not be over looked.

The Colombian Contingent
Awful lot of Colombian fans at Pocono yesterday and I thought it was fantastic. There are four Colombians on the grid, it's about time IndyCar started marketing them to the Latino community. Not to forget mentioning Gabby Chaves who leads the Indy Lights championship by 15 points over Zach Veach and won on Saturday at Pocono.

What Are You Thinking United Kingdom?
I would love to get to the United Kingdom one day but did you see the sports weekend they had scheduled? The British Grand Prix, Wimbledon Championships Gentleman's Final and the second day of the Tour de France from York to Sheffield (hometown of Justin and Stefan Wilson) all took place yesterday.

For comparison, imagine some ridiculous world where the Indianapolis 500, MLB All-Star Game and game seven of the NBA Finals all took place at noon on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. I understand not everyone can make their schedules so there is no overlap. It's bound to happen but the British Grand Prix and final day of Wimbledon should never fall on the same day. Not to mention the middle Sunday at Wimbledon is a rest day and would have been a better day for the British Grand Prix in my opinion. Especially with Lewis Hamilton winning and Jenson Button battling for a podium, Formula One should make sure that race is the only thing on the British sports radar for the weekend.

Good For You Aric Almirola
It was nice to see Aric Almirola get the Cup win at Daytona. He is a Florida kid, he got the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford to victory lane for the first time since John Andretti won at Martinsville in April 1999 and now he is in Chase. Don't get me wrong, I still despise the Chase format and I expect Almirola to run three average races and be eliminated early in the ridiculous format NASCAR has pulled out of their backside.

I always wonder what might have been for Almirola. In 2007, he was a Joe Gibbs Racing development drivers and was running a handful of Busch Series races. He won pole position at Milwaukee while being a stand-by driver for Denny Hamlin who was scheduled to race the car and was on his way from Sonoma. When it came time for the race to start, Hamlin wasn't there and Almirola started from pole and led the first 43 laps. A caution came out and Hamlin was ready to go, forcing Almirola from the car. He had the right to be angry with the decision and while Hamlin did go on to win and Almirola does get credit for the victory because he started the race, he asked for a release after the incident and it was given to him.

If only Almirola was given sometime to develop with a top team like Gibbs. He might have been shown the door anyway as the team was always focused on developing Joey Logano and hired Kyle Busch but I wonder if Almirola was just given the chance to finish that race.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Juan Pablo Montoya, Aric Almirola, Lewis Hamilton and Gabby Chaves but did you know...

René Rast and Enzo Ide won the Blancpain Sprint Series race at Zandvoort.

Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea split the World Superbike weekend at Portimão. Michael van der Mark won the Supersport race with American Patrick Jacobsen finishing fifth.

Jamie Whincup bookended the Townsville weekend with Garth Tander winning the second Saturday race.

Kasey Kahne won the Nationwide Series race at Daytona.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar is under the lights at Iowa.
NASCAR goes head-to-head with the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final at Loudon.
MotoGP runs the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring.
World Superbike comes to the United States to run Laguna Seca.
IMSA goes North of the Border to Mosport.
DTM heads to Moscow.
Super Formula is back on track at Fuji.