Montoya begins historic quest from the front row

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SPEEDWAY, Ind. - Juan Pablo Montoya put his lips to a milk bottle seven years ago at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Juan Pablo Montoya can become the first driver to win an open-wheel race and a stock-car event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today in the Allstate 400, a NASCAR Nextel Cup race.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Juan Pablo Montoya can become the first driver to win an open-wheel race and a stock-car event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today in the Allstate 400, a NASCAR Nextel Cup race.

The track's famed yard of bricks is next on his kiss list.

Montoya, who celebrated his 2000 Indianapolis 500 win with the traditional swig of milk, can become the first driver to win both an open-wheel race and a stock-car event at the Brickyard in today's Allstate 400.

Victors in the NASCAR Nextel Cup race mark their success by kissing the swath of bricks that mark the track's start-finish line.

Montoya, though, gives lip service to his chances.

"You cannot come into a place thinking you're going to win," Montoya said.

Yet Montoya starts today's race on the front row, next to polesitter and Ganassi Racing teammate Reed Sorenson. Ryan Newman starts third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth and Kasey Kahne fifth. Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle, Casey Mears and Denny Hamlin round out the top-10 starters.

Montoya makes history just by starting the race. He is the first driver to compete in the track's three major events - the Formula-1 Series' United States Grand Prix being the other - and is the third Indy 500 winner to drive in the NASCAR race.

A.J. Foyt and Danny Sullivan raced in 1994's inaugural race, finishing 30th and 33rd respectively.

Unlike Foyt and Sullivan, Montoya goes into the Allstate 400 with stock-car experience. He has six top-20 finishes in 19 races this season and posted his first Cup victory last month at Sonoma.

Yet for all his experience - both in stock cars and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - he still feels like a rookie. He said the 3,500-pound stock cars present a greater challenge than the smaller, lighter Indy and Formula-1 cars do at the flat, 2.5-mile oval.

"It is a little bit different with the Cup cars - pretty hard," Montoya said. "The Formula-1 circuit is pretty straightforward. With the IRL cars, it was a really fast oval and pretty flat. I don't know. I've been asking people what they think and where they brake."

Reach Adam Van Brimmer at 404-589-8424 or adam.vanbrimmer@morris.com.


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