Juan Pablo Montoya won the Indianapolis 500. He's also been a winner in Formula One. But in NASCAR, that means nothing.
Montoya's Nextel Cup series debut ended in flames Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was the result of two run-ins with Ryan Newman in a span of six laps.
"I did accomplish what I was looking for," Montoya said. "I got experience and got to know the guys and it was good. I'm racing against great drivers, and it was awesome racing against them today. I think it's been getting better and better race by race."
Montoya will race full time in Nextel Cup next year, replacing Casey Mears in the No. 42 Dodge. Mears said he tried to help Montoya, but the open-wheeled driver seemed above it.
"I've tried," Mears said. "I've given him all the advice I can when I can. I've let him know that he can ask me anything he wants at any time. I think he's used to being the guy, and I don't think he's used to asking other people for advice much. I talked to him quite a bit at Talladega trying to help him understand the draft and also at the test here at Homestead.
"Anytime I can, I've tried to help him. I've told Chip (Ganassi, car owner) I'll do anything I can to help him get up to speed quicker, but there's not as much communication. If I was in his position, there would be more communication."
BIFFLE'S TAKE: Greg Biffle has an idea regarding the wave of Nextel Cup series drivers doing double-duty in the Busch series: Make all of them qualify on speed.
Biffle was one of eight drivers moonlighting on the junior circuit this year. Cup drivers accounted for 34 of the series' 35 wins, prompting complaints throughout the garage area.
"If I were in charge, I'd make the Cup guys have to race their way into the lineup," he said. "That way there wouldn't be more than 13 in any race."
NASCAR locks the top 30 drivers into each starting lineup. The other 13 spots are given to the fastest drivers in time trials.
At the same time, Biffle said the Busch series needs the Cup drivers to make the main event interesting.
"At the noncompanion events like Memphis, the race was awful," he said. "They need the Cup guys."
Biffle said he liked racing against the Cup drivers when he was in the Busch series.
"I loved beating guys like Mark Martin," he said. "You don't learn anything by beating the other (Busch series regulars)."
Reach Don Coble at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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