Montoya said the issues from last weekend's race at Richmond are behind them; Newman said they aren't. Montoya said he's had trouble with Newman since his first Cup race way back in 2006; Newman called that incident at Homestead-Miami Speedway "merely an accident." And Montoya says the scorecard between the two reads Newman 3, JPM 1 – the one being last weekend's retaliation; Newman doesn't know who's keeping score and how they're counting.
Whatever the score and despite what Montoya may think, the issue between these two is not over. In NASCAR, they never really are. Drivers can trade texts, exchange apologies, say they've "put it all behind them," but as soon as something happens on the track where one feels wronged by the other, all forgiveness is erased.
Tension from a pair of incidents in 2006 involving Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth laid dormant for four years before resurfacing in March 2010 at Martinsville. Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski have put their issues "behind them" on several occasions only to have them flare up again. And at some point this season, no one will be surprised if Joey Logano puts a bumper to Kevin Harvick or if Martin Truex Jr. takes out Gordon.
"I don't think once you have an issue it's over in what we do," Newman said. "Even when you think you're over it with somebody else, it can re-flare really quick. I'm not sure if that was something of what happened at Richmond. But either way, I'm still not happy about it, let's put it that way."
Montoya and Newman didn't talk during the week, but Montoya reportedly went to Newman's hauler prior to the first Cup practice on Friday. Neither provided details of what was said, but it's a safe assumption that Montoya explained that his frustration had been building even before the two made contact early at Richmond, while Newman likely wondered why Montoya wasn't directing his anger at his spotter who failed to tell JPM that Newman was inside of him.
"We did have a meeting with both Ryan and Juan relative to their incident, and we made it clear to them that this is their final warning. We also made it clear to them that we will be watching them very closely," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp told the Associated Press. "The meeting did not go as well as we had hoped it would."
When asked by SPEED where the two stand after the meeting, Newman said, "I'm not real sure."
The bigger picture for both drivers is where they are in the standings. Both were solidly in the top 10 but have slipped in recent weeks. The incidents at Richmond didn't help, as Newman wound up 20th and Montoya 29th, which dropped him out of the top 10.
"I didn’t mind so much that he did it," Monotya said. "I minded that at this point we both need the points and I didn’t feel I was being treated fair. Do what I do, what I had to.”
Not surprisingly, Newman disagreed.
"I know he's a really hard racer, he's really physical," Newman explained. "There's nothing wrong with that as long as you have an amount of respect. I think the respect went out the window Saturday night at Richmond."
This feud may not flare up Saturday night at Darlington, and it likely won't considering NASCAR will be keeping a watchful eye. But it's not over. It will resurface again. Because while drivers are able to forgive, they never forget.