By admin | April 14, 2009
By Richard Allen
When Juan Pablo Montoya left the Formula 1 Series in favor of NASCAR it was thought by many that he was a talented driver. But, adapting to big, heavy stock cars would take some time. Finally, the needed time has passed and the Colombian driver’s talent is showing through.
In his first season on the Sprint Cup Series Montoya won as a rookie. But, that was on the road course at Sonoma. As an F1 driver he was supposed to win on that type track. However, despite a few good runs on the oval circuits, he failed to break through with a win on the tracks that make up the vast majority of the NASCAR schedule.
In 2008, Montoya’s second full time campaign in the Sprint Cup Series, he failed to tally a win, even on the road courses. He wound up 25th in the overall standings and appeared to show little if any progress.
One thing that has to be considered in judging Montoya’s success, or lack thereof, so far is that he is not driving for one of the top tier teams in the sport. He originally signed with Chip Ganassi Racing, building on the relationship the two had in previous open wheel ventures.
After an off season merger with Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Ganassi’s top driver seems to finally be realizing his true form. He is currently just outside the prized Top 12 in the Sprint Cup standings, holding the 13th position. He has two Top 10s and five Top 15s in the season’s first seven races.
Perhaps most impressive is that he has managed to run well at places such as Bristol and Martinsville, two tracks he did not initially feel comfortable on but adapted to very quickly.
Montoya looks to be a serious threat to run near the front on all sorts of tracks. He may well be the only driver who has benefited from the Ganassi-DEI merger. The #8 team of Aric Almirola has been parked and the #1 of Martin Truex is mired in 24th place of the standings.
Juan Pablo Montoya came to NASCAR with a certain amount of fanfare having won two of the world’s biggest races, the Indianapolis 500 and the Grand Prix of Monaco. However, even the most optimistic of his supporters would have admitted that the adjustment to this kind of racing would take time. Now, it looks like it is time for the talented driver to step forward.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
*For a chuckle, click on the link below to watch the latest in my series of short, animated films, “Racing Re-Cap: Special Edition”. Serious racing reporter Mark Mustang attempts to do an in depth interview with rookie driver Dusty Davis but finds the driver’s overly scripted answers to be a bit frustrating.
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