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Montoya in NASCAR

When drivers leave F1 for other formulae, it is interesting to follow their progress, especially if they do well. This gives us confirmation that F1 really is the peak of motor sport and its drivers the best. Of course, if they do not rise to the top immediately, we excuse their performance by commenting on how F1 requires different and more sophisticated skills; the F1 driver is having difficulty adapting his finely-tuned talents to the other, coarser formula.

So we keep an eye on former F1 drivers like Alessandro Nannini, who went to Touring Cars after his accident, Christiano da Matta in Indy cars and now Juan Pablo Montoya in NASCAR. And Montoya is particularly important to us; we want him to win everything in sight so that we can crow about the superiority of F1 drivers over all others.

Montoya

Montoya’s Dodge Charger

So far, the signs are there, if not the results. In both races he has entered, Montoya led for several laps and he finished in third spot in Talladega. It was quite possible that he was going to win but had to spend time in the pits after being hit by another car.

This happened in Iowa too, where he was forced into the wall while in the lead. A long pit stop resulted in him only being able to come in 24th. And we begin to wonder if those good ole boys are plotting to ensure his downfall.

That is the nature of NASCAR, however – like all saloon car racing, it tends to be a good bit more robust and aggressive than F1. The fact that the wheels are covered means that cars do not automatically fly into the air when they touch and so some barging and shoving is inevitable.

I would guess that the signs are very hopeful for Montoya, in spite of the roughness of his introduction to the sport. He qualified well both times and has demonstrated real speed in going straight to the front. Once he learns how to be wary of the other cars and not to allow them to push him into mistakes, he should be a consistent winner.

So honor is satisfied and we can return to our pinnacle of motor sport, secure in the knowledge that it has been shown once again that F1 is only for the very best. Well, it is, isn’t it?

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Montoya to NASCAR

The big news of the moment is Juan Pablo Montoya’s announcement that he will be driving in the NASCAR series next year. Never mind the resulting speculation on who will get his seat in the McLaren; the really surprising thing is this unusual move from F1 to stock cars.

Montoya

Juan Pablo Montoya

Years ago, Derek Warwick made the trip but in the other direction – I think he was the only F1 driver ever to have started in stock cars. And we have seen many F1 drivers opt for European touring car races after stepping down from F1. But F1 to NASCAR? That’s almost a contradiction in terms.

Yet it does make some sense. Montoya has driven for Chip Ganassi before in CART races and they have a lot of respect for each other. Together they dominated CART and this gave Juan Pablo his initial break into F1. A renewal of the partnership seems quite logical from this point of view.

And what does Montoya have left to prove? He has won races in F1 and shown that he is amongst the quickest of drivers. Some would say that he has a tendency to be a bit wild on the track but the same was said of Jody Scheckter and Riccardo Patrese; look how successful they were in the long run.

In common with others of the F1 drivers fraternity, Montoya has reached a position where financial considerations are no longer an important factor in decisions. He can opt for the form of racing that he finds most fun and, indeed, has hinted that F1 is no longer as enjoyable as he first found it. Whatever your feelings toward NASCAR (and, personally, I find it pretty boring), there is no denying that it must be great fun for the drivers.

So I wish Juan Pablo well as he makes the move into so different a form of racing. He will make his mark amongst the “good ole boys”, I’m sure. And, who knows? I might even start watching a few NASCAR races to see how he’s getting on.

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