Unser Warns Montoya That Indy Bites Back

INDIANAPOLIS -- Al Unser Jr. criticized Indianapolis 500 rookie Juan Montoya for his aggressive driving style and gave him some unsolicited advice -- beware of Indy's concrete walls.

Montoya, a 24-year-old Colombian, won the CART championship last year as a rookie and will make his first Indy start on Sunday.

"Juan is very, very aggressive," Unser said Thursday. "You'd better respect Indianapolis or it will bite you hard.

"I won't race him any different than I will race anybody else, but my advice to him: they carry people out of here on stretchers."

Montoya won seven poles and seven races in 1999, but not everyone appreciated his performance.

Unser, a two-time Indy winner who raced against Montoya last season, has switched to the rival Indy Racing League and on Sunday will compete in the big race for the first time in six years.

Little Al, who won here in 1992 and 1994, failed to qualify in 1995 and missed the next four seasons as part of CART's boycott of the event because of its differences with the IRNLS.

Unser also gave Montoya a broadside in quotes before the IRNLS race in Phoenix in March, saying the youngster drove recklessly at a race in Madison, Ill., last year and "could have hurt himself or someone else."

He also said Montoya doesn't really care about American racing. "All he cares about is Formula One," Unser said. Montoya is expected to jump to Formula One next season.

Unser said Thursday he was concerned about the possibility of racing side-by-side with Montoya on the narrow 2.5-mile Indy oval.

He also said Montoya needs to be aware of a major difference between CART and the IRNLS. He said Brian Barnhart, the IRNLS' director of racing operations, told the 33 race starters that blocking will not be allowed.

"It was a big point at the driver's meeting today," Unser said. "Brian put it real bluntly. If anybody blocks anybody else in the oval or coming down the straightaway you're going to get black-flagged.

"That's defensive driving, driving with your mirrors, and it's not allowed here, period.

"CART allows one (blocking) move and that one move can kill you. Ask Jeff Krosnoff, if you could ask Jeff Krosnoff. That one move killed him."

Krosnoff died in a crash during a CART race in Toronto in July 1996. On a restart late in the race, his car banged wheels with a car driven by Stefan Johansson, flew over a fence and hit a large tree. Johansson wasn't penalized.

Montoya drives for Chip Ganassi's team, winners of four straight CART championships and at Indy for the first time in five years.

Montoya, who shrugged off Unser's Phoenix quotes, was unavailable for comment after the latest criticism.

The young driver, who will start in the middle of the front row in Sunday's race, took part in the two-hour "Carburetion Day" practice Thursday and left the track before Unser's outburst.

He was scheduled to fly to Nazareth, Pa., on Friday and will compete on Saturday in the CART race before returning to Indianapolis.

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