Montoya takes mellow attitude into first year

Thursday, January 18, 2007
Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia, takes a break in the garages at Daytona International Speedway during NASCAR auto racing testing in Daytona Beach, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Juan Pablo Montoya wasn't fazed by the fiery crash that ended his Nextel Cup debut. And if Ryan Newman wrecked him on purpose, Montoya doesn't care.

The brash Colombian is taking a "no worries" approach to his first season in NASCAR, which is shaping up to be one crazy ride already. His switch from the country club Formula One lifestyle to the campfire NASCAR culture has so far been smooth, despite an overwhelming interest in his every move that is quickly overshadowing many of his new rivals.

"From what I understand he's bigger than a rock star in his country," Newman said. "Just seeing him, he's got a great character, a great attitude. I think he's got a learning curve ahead of him; obviously every rookie does. But I think he's capable of it.

"If I had to pick a winner of rookie of the year off the top of my head right now, I'd say it would be him."

Newman and Montoya have already had one on-track run-in, in November's season finale Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Montoya was having a decent first race until contact with Newman sent him hard into the wall and caused his car to burst into flames.

Although many thought Newman's contact with Montoya was intentional, Montoya said he never gave the incident a second thought and never expected any sort of apology.

"There is nothing to apologize for," he said. "We are racing there and racing hard and things like that will happen."

Newman still felt the need to explain himself this week.

"I think the world of you and would never do that," Newman said. "And if I did, I'd come talk to you about it after."

Montoya's own aggressive nature caused many incidents through his days in open wheel. He's trying hard to rein in that competitive streak and approach each new day in NASCAR as a learning experience.

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