Like the psycho girlfriend or boyfriend who may pop up in your life, Juan Pablo Montoya and NASCAR were always a bad fit.
He was always an interloper — a guy from another country, for starters — who used to hang with the fancy-schmantzy open-wheel crowd.
It was bound to implode, and it did, in epic proportions. Montoya always will have the night he blew up a jet dryer as the defining moment of his NASCAR career.
But it's all good now. As the NASCAR Nation revs up in Daytona Beach this week, Montoya was in Orlando for IndyCar Media Day at Amway Center on Tuesday.
A quick hop down I-4. May as well be thousands of miles away.
"It's completely different," he said. "The NASCAR one was … like, 'Where the hell am I?' "
Juan is back where he belongs after seven full seasons on the NASCAR circuit. He snagged a ride with Roger Penske's team after Chip Ganassi did not renew his NASCAR contract.
Just as well. Montoya only won two races — none since 2010 — and remains infamous for sliding into a jet-dryer truck during the 2012 Daytona 500. But he has some major open-wheel street cred, including winning the Indianapolis 500 in 2000.
The car is a different beast now, and Montoya is still getting acclimated to how things roll the second time around.
"The cars were very different," Montoya said. "There was a lot of movement. This is the opposite because in NASCAR the limit of the car is very easy. You can get to the limit of the car very easy. The big thing is you're driving it too hard. In IndyCar, you can't drive it hard enough, or at least I can't yet. I'm leaving a lot on the table. I think that's the biggest thing."
Montoya, 38, now joins teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves on the Penske crew that is the biggest rival to Ganassi's open-wheel team.
"At the end of the day we all understand that we got to race each other on the track," Power said. "During this testing-time part of the season, we need to work together and try things, find things that are going to help us be at the front."
As for NASCAR, Montoya is so far removed it's not within sight of his rear-view mirror. Montoya said he didn't see the Sprint Unlimited Shootout at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night. The race included another surreal moment: the pace car catching fire.
"Actually my wife turned it on because she saw a tweet about it," Montoya said. "They were interviewing [Tony] Stewart after the crash. She wanted to watch the race and I fell asleep. I'm not saying I fell asleep because it was boring; I was just tired."
Could we be seeing the last hurrah of Jeff Gordon?
If he wins his fifth Cup championship this season, Gordon has intimated that he'd be riding off into the sunset without restrictor plates and firesuit.
"You know, 20-plus great years," he said last week. "I do this now because I love it, because I like being competitive, and because I want another championship. I want to get a Sprint Cup championship.
"I go home, you know, and I look at my trophy room. I see four trophies, championship trophies. But they say Winston Cup on them. You can name me a four-time Sprint Cup champion for technical reasons all you want, but to me I'm still not. I want that before my career's over.
"If that happened, that would be all the reasons I need to say, 'This is it, I'm done. Go out on a high note, start playing baseball.' "
Now 42, Gordon has a been-there/done-that resume that will get him into the Hall of Fame without any hiccups. But he's more than a racing man now. He's a family man with two children and various interests.
And he's been great for the sport in many ways.
Yet that fifth championship remains a bit of a longshot. Just within his organization, Hendrick Motorsports, you could argue that he is the "weakest" link among a cast of stars that features six-time champion Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.
Still, the "old man" still has plenty of gas to get it done in 2014.
Tony Stewart is on the mend and back in a stock car, which means he no longer needs that custom scooter he used to get around the track following his accident in a dirt-track race last August.
But the scooter is still being put to good use.
Stewart donated the scooter — that includes a custom paint scheme and Tony's autograph — to the Darrell Gwynn Foundation, which provides support and offers programs for people with paralysis and works to prevent spinal-cord injuries. In turn, the paralyzed former drag-racer's foundation will auction the scooter at the upcoming Barrett-Jackson event in April in Palm Beach.
Stewart has thrown in some extra goodies, including a race-worn Bass Pro Shops firesuit signed by Stewart and a trip for two people to be his guests at the Coke Zero 400 event at Daytona International Speedway in July. Round-trip airfare, a three-night hotel stay and garage passes all will be covered by Stewart, and two reserved seats will be available on the team's pit box for the winners to watch the race.
Stewart will also match the first $50,000 bid and donate it to the Darrell Gwynn Foundation.
"Once I saw how much attention I got at Richmond, I said, 'We can do something productive with this,' " Stewart said. "We didn't know how long we were going to have to use it. The good thing is we've been a big part of the Darrell Gwynn foundation, a believer of what he does. We knew right off the bat that once it got the attention it got at Richmond, when we were done with it we were going to donate it to Darrell. Instead of just giving it away to anybody, hopefully this thing can raise some money."
Tweet of the week
"USA. USA. USA. Bobsled 2 man bronze!!!! @steveholcomb driver." — @Team_Onion (Todd Bodine), whose brother Geoff Bodine builds Olympic sledsCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun