Montoya fends off criticism

Associated Press
Juan Pablo Montoya (right), shown with team manager Tony Glover, had the fastest time in a morning test session Tuesday at Daytona.

Juan Pablo Montoya didn't waste any time defending his move from Formula One to NASCAR following harsh criticism from former Formula One star Michael Schumacher.

Montoya was at Daytona International Speed-way preparing for next month's Daytona 500 when Schumacher was quoted in The New York Times saying "What's exciting there?"

"Put Schumacher in a NASCAR (race car) at Homestead (Fla.) and tell him to be a half-second off the leader and he'd have a heart attack," Montoya said. "This is a challenge."

Montoya brings some prestigious international credentials. He not only is a former CART Champ Car champion, he's a former winner of the Indianapolis 500. He's also won in Formula One, including the Grand Prix of Monaco.

So how would a Daytona 500 rank?

"Right up there with Indy and Monaco," he said. "That would be big."

Montoya is proving to be a fast study, pacing Tuesday morning's test session with a lap at 184.574 mph. Ryan Newman led the afternoon session at 186.540 mph.

ESPN GEARING UP: NASCAR is hoping ESPN's return to the sport will jump-start sagging TV ratings, and the network is revving up its efforts with an aggressive brand campaign.

The network's daily news show "NASCAR Now" will begin on Jan. 29, and a series, which features Busch drivers, will debut on Feb. 5.

ESPN will place a large emphasis on the Busch Series, which will be televised in its entirety on its networks.

John Raoux/associated press

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