By admin | July 19, 2009
By Richard Allen
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s a vast majority of NASCAR drivers called the southern United States home. In more recent times, the mid-western United States has produced a great many of the sportâ€™s top talent. Even western states like California, Washington and Nevada have gotten into the act of sending big stars to the elite stock racing series.
However, two places definitely not known for producing drivers with stock racing prowess are the countries of Colombia and Australia.
Colombiaâ€™s Juan Pablo Montoya has proven he is one of the worldâ€™s best open-wheel race car drivers. He has won the Indianapolis 500, an IndyCar championship and he has scored victories on the Formula 1 circuit. But when he came to NASCAR many believed the big, heavy stock cars would prove too different from what he was used to driving for him to make much of an impact.
Well, that does not seem to be the case this season. Currently, the Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing driver sits 9th in the Sprint Cup standings, which will qualify him for the Chase for the Championship should he maintain that position.
Montoya has reached this lofty ranking without the benefit of a single top-5 finish, which speaks volumes about the NASCAR point system. The driver of the #42 Dodge has taken advantage of the fact that the system rewards consistency. Over the course of the last six Sprint Cup races Montoya has scored five top-10 results with his worst run being a 12th.
At this current rate, there is little reason to believe anything other than Juan Pablo Montoya will make the Chase, and thus, will be a title contender in only his third full season of Sprint Cup racing.
So much for the opinion that he couldnâ€™t make much of an impact.
Marcos Ambrose came to NASCAR via a less glamorous route than that of Montoya. The native of Australia raced in a road course series in his homeland until deciding to come to America to give big time auto racing a shot.
Ambrose has spent time in both the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series preparing for this season. Even though he ran too many Sprint Cup races to be considered a rookie in the series, he essentially is that.
Driving the JTG/Daugherty Toyota, Ambrose currently ranks 18th in the overall standings. He has scored two top-5 finishes and a total of five top-10s. That is better than many drivers with much more experience and backing than he has.
It would not be a stretch in any way to predict a win for Ambrose on the road course at Watkins Glen. However, it has been his oval track improvement that has allowed him to place so highly in the standings. After all, only one of those top-5s came on a road course.
These two drivers may not have come from the places NASCAR drivers are supposed to come from, but they are certainly proving they can do the job even with far less experience in these type cars than most of their competition.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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