Montoya qualifies for first Nextel race




 
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November 18th, 2006  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Montoya qualifies for first Nextel race




TRAVIS REED

Associated Press

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Cameras followed Juan Pablo Montoya all across the NASCAR circuit the past three weeks. On Friday, he gave everyone something to watch. The Formula One defector qualified for his first Nextel Cup race, placing him on NASCAR's biggest stage in Sunday's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The former open-wheel star could have had a guaranteed spot in the field in Chip Ganassi Racing's No. 42 Dodge, which Casey Mears has been racing all season. But Ganassi decided to put him in a fourth ride with a patchwork crew and make Montoya earn his way into the race. He did with a lap of 175.581 mph, good enough for the 29th spot in the field.
"It's not about nervous, it's just the stress," Montoya said. "You don't want to come out here and look like an idiot because you didn't make the show. It's good because we can now relax and really focus on getting a good race car."
Montoya is the first driver from the prestigious F1 circuit, which carries higher paychecks and international exposure, to make the NASCAR jump. He walked away from a lucrative deal with McLaren because he wanted new challenges and was tired of the stiff-upper-lip open-wheel circuit.
So he reunited with Ganassi, who fielded Montoya's cars for the 1999 Cart championship and the Indianapolis 500 title in 2000. The Colombian will run the full Cup season next year in the No. 42, which Mears is abandoning.
After three Busch Series events, Ganassi decided to enter Montoya in this Cup event to give him a little more experience before next February's season-opening Daytona 500. He'll also run the Busch race here on Saturday.
"As stressful as this exercise was today, I still think it will be invaluable when you look back on it a year or two from now," Ganassi said. "I think today's experience for his learning curve will be invaluable."
Montoya, who now lives in Miami, will make his debut at his hometown speedway. His wife, brother and father were on hand to watch qualifying, and his father said more would be around Sunday to see Montoya make history.
The small crowd watched nervously as Montoya prepared to drive the No. 30 Dodge, which had flames painted on it in the colors of the Colombian flag.
"He's always confident, but you never know what's going to happen qualifying," father Pablo Montoya said just before his son thundered out of the pits.
Montoya had a promising Busch debut Oct. 28 at Memphis, finishing 11th. But a crash the next week in Texas left him in 28th, and a crowded field last week at Phoenix frustrated him into a 20th-place finish.
Montoya said he's learning quickly, but the transition will take time. He's still understanding how hard and fast to run, and quickly discovered the importance of pit crew communication.
"Driving the car by itself, it hasn't been a big problem. But the other thing you don't understand is, when you come from open-wheel, if somebody's behind you it can actually affect the car in front," he said. "We're not used to that. In open wheel, a guy's behind you, gets all of your dirty air and that's it, you're fine.
"Here it really affects where the other car is, and you need to always pay a lot of attention to your spotter."
Montoya has built a reputation as a brash and aggressive driver, but both he and Ganassi said they'd steer clear of points leaders still chasing the championship Sunday to avoid making enemies.
"We're here to learn and get all the laps. Next year will be a different deal," Montoya said.
November 18th, 2006  
MightyMacbeth
 
 
you are on a roll TI even though I have many more sports news, I seem to loose the interest or seem to be too lazy to keep posting. Thats not the issue with you though rock on
November 18th, 2006  
Team Infidel
 
 
dude.. i would have earlier, but we didn't get to bed until 4
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November 18th, 2006  
MightyMacbeth
 
 
yes, I can observe that you are tired
 


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