The process of transforming Juan Pablo Montoya from a top-flight Formula One driver into a NASCAR regular began Monday as the South American driver participated in an ARCA test session at Talladega Superspeedway. Montoya ran laps in a Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge Charger as Ganassi, crew chief Donnie Wingo and much of the Ganassi hierarchy looked on. Although official speeds were not released [see speeds link at end of this post], team members said Montoya ran laps in the 187-mile-per-hour range. "I went out on the track for the first time, and it was like, 'Oh, my God,'" Montoya said. "I went into [Turn] 3 and 4 and started to lift, but I said, 'Oh, let's just try it.' I went into 1 pretty fast. They told me running flat [full speed around the track] here was easy. I did it, and it felt pretty quick. The car moves around a lot more than I'm used to, but I'm getting there. It will take some time." Unless Ganassi's plans change, Montoya will make his stock-car-racing debut in the Food World 250 ARCA race here Oct. 6. He is scheduled to run the full Nextel Cup series next season. Monday's laps were Montoya's first in a full-bodied NASCAR-style stock car, although he raced 12 years ago in Trans-Am-type cars in his native Colombia.(SceneDaily.com
Montoya made his first test run as a stock car racer Monday at Talladega, beginning his transition from open wheel racing star to NASCAR neophyte. Montoya ran the Superspeedway in an ARCA Car for Chip Ganassi Racing, with whom he won the 2000 Indy 500 in his first try. Ganassi said he plans for Montoya to log as many miles as possible this season. He has also said he wants Montoya to run in ARCA, Busch and Nextel Cup races by the end of the season, but said Monday he didn't know yet where his first race would be. The Talladega ARCA race is Oct. 6.(Associated Press
) and see the ARCA Speeds run by 31 drivers Monday at RacingOne
, Mark Mitchell was the fastest at 187.768mph, Steve Wallace was 5th and Juan Pablo Montoya was 6th at 186.667mph.