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Montoya making transition to stock cars

Friday, October 20, 2006

HOMESTEAD, Fla.-- Continuing his transition from open-wheel to stock car racing, former Formula One star Juan Pablo Montoya spent Tuesday and Wednesday testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway, site of the Nextel Cup's season-ending Ford 400.

The sessions added to speculation that he'll make his Cup Series debut there on Nov. 19.

His NASCAR debut is looming fast, Oct. 28 in a Busch Series race at Memphis Motorsports Park -- a track where he tested last week.

And while saying he's feeling more and more comfortable in his new Dodge owned by Chip Ganassi Racing, Montoya knows he's just beginning to realize how big this adjustment really is ahead of his first full season on the Nextel Cup circuit.

"You can make the car really good and you can make it really bad, really easy, I've noticed," Montoya said before his Wednesday testing session. "We're just learning. We're just learning, trying things. We try to do little steps at a time."

For Montoya -- who teamed with Ganassi to win the 2000 Indianapolis 500 and is the first F1 driver to defect to NASCAR -- that's what all of the testing sessions have really been about.

Since leaving his McLaren F1 team in July, he tested at both Talladega Superspeedway and Iowa Speedway before entering the ARCA events at those two tracks. He tested last week in Memphis, days before it was announced that he'll return there for the Busch Series stop.

But the slippery, sun-drenched surface at Homestead doesn't compare to any of those tracks, he said.

"So far this has been the hardest test for me, this Cup test," Montoya said. "When I did the ARCA testing, you have spoilers that are a lot bigger than this one, the car is more forgiving. It's learning how far you can go with the car. That's probably been the hardest thing to learn in this car."

He's still a bit befuddled by so many things involved with his new gig, how something like a higher track line here, a tiny shift of a spoiler there, all seem like minute details but wind up making the difference between winning and losing.

"The crazy thing here is how limited the rules are for technology [and] how far they go with the cars," Montoya said. "If you would bring an engineer from like Formula One and show them how detailed the cars are, they would be shocked."

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