BUSCH: Montoya ends transition period

MONTOYA QUICKLY UP TO SPEED WITH SUCCESSFUL 2006 TRANSITION PERIOD FOR CHIP GANASSI RACING WITH FELIX SABATES CONCORD, N.C. (November 28, 2006) --Juan Pablo Montoya capped off an eventful conclusion to the 2006 racing season at Homestead-Miami...


CONCORD, N.C. (November 28, 2006) --Juan Pablo Montoya capped off an eventful conclusion to the 2006 racing season at Homestead-Miami Speedway with his Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGRFS) crews after successfully qualifying for his first-career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race in the Texaco/Havoline Dodge, and pulling his first racing "double" in the Busch Series event.

When the dust settled from his seven-race whirlwind stock car racing season (ARCA, Busch and NEXTEL Cup), Montoya had completed 96 percent of the total race laps (1,391 of 1,454), with an average qualifying position of 13th and 24 laps led.

"I think the thing that is easy to forget is that Juan Pablo is a driver with no prior experience in these cars," said Team Owner Chip Ganassi. "To accomplish what he's been able to accomplish in just seven races really speaks volumes about both his ability as a race car driver, and the passion he has for making this effort and this team a success."

The 2000 Indianapolis 500 champion and Formula One race winner quickly turned heads in his stock car debut at Talladega Superspeedway in October, qualifying on the front row and leading the first nine laps en route to a third-place finish in the ARCA RE/MAX Series race.

Mixed with a rigorous testing schedule to prepare him for his fulltime 2007 ride in the No.42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge for CGRFS, the Colombian accelerated his learning curve by running the ARCA finale at Iowa Speedway the next weekend, where he qualified third and finished 24th in his first foray in the world of short track racing.

Montoya made his NASCAR debut in the Busch Series event at Memphis just two weeks later, qualifying ninth out of 49 cars entered en route to an 11th -place finish. More importantly Montoya and the Texaco/Havoline team accomplished their goal of running all 252 laps.

With only three stock car starts under his belt, Montoya moved to Texas Motor Speedway and proved again to be a quick study by his fourth straight top-10 qualifying effort. He lined up 10th and finished 28th in the Busch race after the left-front valance was damaged after qualifying. Due to NASCAR's impound policy the Texaco/Havoline crew could not fix the car until the race started, but Montoya still completed 197 of 200 laps.

Phoenix awaited Montoya next, and he continued his impressive qualifying streak with an 11th-place starting spot among the 47 Busch cars trying to make the show. He negotiated every lap of the 203-lap contest, and earned his third top-20 finish in five stock car starts.

Homestead-Miami would mark the end of the 2006 transition period for Montoya as he competed in both the Busch and NEXTEL Cup races. He parlayed a 31st-place qualifying run into a 14th-place finish on Saturday while finishing one-lap down to the leader and completing 199 of 200 laps. In his much-anticipated Cup debut on Sunday, he qualified on time in 29th among the 55-cars entered on the weekend. Montoya drove the No. 30 Texaco/Havoline Dodge up as high as 13th before getting tapped from behind and sent into the outside wall on lap 252 of the 268-lap race.

"From the start with Juan Pablo, the thing that stood out for me was the fact he was good speed-wise right out of the box," said Steve Boyer, his crew chief for the No. 30 Texaco/Havoline Dodge. "Here's a guy that had limited experience in full-bodied cars, and in a short time frame had very little problem adjusting. What we helped him with was putting him in race situations with cars around him so he could adapt to his new surroundings to get a solid feel for what was going on. I think he'll have few problems next year racing week-in and week-out with the NEXTEL Cup guys."

Montoya will spend most of the off-season in Colombia but will back in full force in January with a very aggressive test schedule in preparation for the beginning of the 2007 NASCAR season.

-credit: www.chipganassiracing.com

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Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing