NASCAR RACEDAY ON SPEED: JUAN PABLO MONTOYA JOINS NASCAR NEXTEL CUP DRIVERS SPENCER, WALLACE & JOHNSON COMMENT ON NASCAR'S NEWEST COMPETITOR The NASCAR RaceDay on SPEED crew was LIVE from this weekend's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at ...
NASCAR RACEDAY ON SPEED: JUAN PABLO MONTOYA JOINS NASCAR NEXTEL CUP
DRIVERS SPENCER, WALLACE & JOHNSON COMMENT ON NASCAR'S NEWEST COMPETITOR
The NASCAR RaceDay on SPEED crew was LIVE from this weekend's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Wendy Venturini spoke to team owner Chip Ganassi of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, and Formula One star Juan Pablo Montoya, who will take over next year for the departing Casey Mears in the No. 42 Texaco-Havoline Dodge.
Montoya, who leaves Formula One and the McLaren-Mercedes entry after winning seven races, rejoins with his old boss following his 1999 Champ Car World Series championship and winning the 2000 Indianapolis 500 for Target-Chip Ganassi Racing.
Here is what was said on the most recent edition of NASCAR RaceDay on SPEED.
Venturini: The big announcement this weekend came from Chip Ganassi, who announced today he has signed Juan Pablo Montoya to race NASCAR. What a big announcement for you.
Ganassi: Felix (Sabates) and I were looking for someone to put into the car. And from the people who met Juan this morning, they know he has a real infectious personality. He's up for the challenge in NASCAR. He knows it's going to be a tall order and I know there's a steep learning curve. But there's no one I want more to drive this car than this guy. I'm looking forward to it.
Venturini: Juan has gone through a whirlwind of emotions the last couple of days; and you've been bombarded by the media the last hour haven't you?
Montoya: Yeah. It's really been pretty crazy, but I'm just happy to be here. The challenge is big. I don't think people know how big of a challenge this is really going to be in coming here. As Chip said, it's a steep learning curve, but we are here for business.
Venturini: You've driven a stock car before. Tell me what it was like, and what you can add on to that for the future?
Montoya: The experience was fun...and that's one of the reasons why I thought about it. Yes, it was a road course, but I drove the car and was very comfortable in it. And before, I have done well when racing on ovals. Since I've come here, I have talked with all the drivers and it's been really good -- I know there are great drivers here.
Venturini: ...It was definitely a big shock in the garage area this morning; as Montoya has signed on to drive the 42 car.
John Roberts: ...Montoya is no stranger to racing with Chip, but Jimmy (Spencer) and Kenny (Wallace), he's got a big learning curve coming his way because this is a whole different ballgame.
Jimmy Spencer: That guy (Montoya) is a race car driver. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, go down the list, Juan Pablo is that caliber of a driver. Chip Ganassi did a great job in getting him to NASCAR. Kenny, there's no question in my mind. You don't go to Formula One and win. You don't go to IRL and win. This guy will win in NASCAR.
Kenny Wallace: One thing I like about Chip Ganassi hiring Juan Pablo Montoya is that he's Columbian. I think it's a good move by Chip because he didn't stay within a realm. Chip Ganassi has another world we don't know about. Other than NASCAR, he's got Indy Cars; he's got a whole world out there, so he went a different route. It's just like hiring Ryan Newman from open wheel, or Kenny Schrader years ago...this guy's a good race car driver.
Roberts: What does it mean for NASCAR? Here's an F1 guy coming over to NASCAR on a full-time basis. We've had some guys dabble before, but never full time.
Wallace: This is a major breakthrough. He's conquered Champ Car ...and he's gone over to Formula One and been successful over there. He's got the respect of the fans and everyone over at Ganassi Racing. There is going to be a learning curve, but Chip, just like he did with Casey Mears, is going to make sure he gets through ARCA, the Busch Series and make sure he's ready to go. Teams like Penske and Ganassi don't do things lightly. Even the IRL and CART guys, they're going to be looking this way now. It's important that they got Juan Pablo because this guy is big time.
Spencer: I think the big thing is that (certain) people don't want to give credit to the NASCAR family. We definitely have the biggest fan base in the world as far as the driver's are concerned. Jeff Gordon's okay. Tony Stewart's okay, according to the outer limits. Now, Juan Pablo's looking over here saying, 'hey, these guys are pretty darn tough and I have a big learning curve.' But for me, I think this opens up an entirely new market to help our fan base grow. The biggest thing I think is going to happen is, now all at once with him coming into the Ganassi camp, that whole team can now say, 'I've got something here.' That can strengthen Chip's team, which is good for the sport.
Wallace: One more comment. For years, NASCAR has been looking for that Latino driver, whether it's Michelle Jourdain or anybody outside the United States. Here he is. He's big time. He's got the money behind him...
Spencer: ...and he's got the talent.
Wallace: Yes. He's got the talent.
Later, Spencer asked guest and current NASCAR Nextel Cup Series points leader Jimmie Johnson about Montoya's decision.
Spencer: Jimmie, you've come out of off-road racing and through the Busch Series. With the big announcement today, and I know you are friends with Juan Pablo, what do you think this says about the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series with the caliber of guys coming in here and wanting to race this series?
Johnson: I think it's great for our sport. Our sport is looking for new people and new fans to get involved outside the sport all of the time. Actually, this opens up a whole new world for us. I have to say I was shocked when Juan Pablo Montoya walked into my transporter about 30 or 40 minutes ago. I just saw him in Indy at the F1 race and asked, 'What are you doing here?' He told me the news. I'm shocked and I'm glad to hear it. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and those guys are known for doing things outside the box.
SPEED, celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2006, is the nation's first and foremost cable network dedicated to motor sports and the passion for everything automotive. From racing to restoration, motorcycles to movies, SPEED delivers quality programming from the track to the garage. Now available in more than 71 million homes in North America, SPEED is among the fastest growing sports cable networks in the country and an industry leader in interactive TV, video on demand, mobile initiatives and broadband services.