Pruett puts Montoya incident behind him

Published 6:42 pm Sunday, April 20, 2008

By By NOAH TRISTER, AP Sports Writer
MEXICO CITY — Scott Pruett’s frustration eventually subsided.
Last year in Mexico City, he was spun by teammate Juan Pablo Montoya in the final laps. Montoya won the race, and Pruett offered some choice comments afterward.
That’s in the past, Pruett insists.
Pruett is back for another try at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, where he qualified second for Sunday’s Corona Mexico 200. A road-course ace, he’ll make his 10th career start on NASCAR’s Nationwide Series. His fifth-place finish at this event last year is his career best.
Pruett might have finished even higher in 2007, but Montoya — his teammate with Chip Ganassi Racing — sent Pruett’s car spinning and took the lead with eight laps left. Pruett described the move afterward as ‘‘lowdown, nasty, dirty driving.’’
Chalk that up to the emotion of the moment. Pruett’s tune has changed since then.
If that’s the case, then Pruett should contend this weekend. He had the fastest speed in Friday’s practice sessions, and was second to 19-year-old Colin Braun in qualifying Saturday. Pruett also was part of a second-place driving pair in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series event later in the day — another chance for him to test the 2.518-mile road course at Hermanos Rodriguez.
The windy track was built more for open-wheel racing than stock cars.
The race is in its fourth year, and there will be a fourth different winner. Montoya didn’t return, and previous winners Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. are also absent.
Montoya’s victory in 2007 delighted a crowd that was eager for a Latino to win. He’s not here this year, but six drivers from Mexico are set to start Sunday. Adrian Fernandez, one of Mexico’s most popular sports figures, faced a long trip back to Mexico City after traveling to California to compete in an American Le Mans Series event Saturday.
Michel Jourdain, who like Fernandez is from Mexico City, has been looking forward to the home race.
Clint Bowyer leads the Nationwide standings, 24 points ahead of defending champion Carl Edwards. Kyle Busch is in third place after two consecutive wins — and also second in the Sprint Cup standings. Busch was cautious Friday when asked if he might adjust his schedule to pursue the Nationwide title in addition to the Cup championship.
The top drivers will be challenged, however, by experienced road course racers such as Pruett, Fernandez and Boris Said, who was third in Mexico City last year. Said qualified fifth Saturday.