Earnhardt Jr: Montoya Great For NASCAR

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The news media are not the only people looking to question Juan Pablo Montoya as the Indy Car and Formula One veteran transitions to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series racing.

"I have 100 questions I’d like to ask him," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Thursday after the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup press conference. "I’d like to hear about what he’d done in the past, what the style of that type of racing was like, and different things about different people. (That will come) in due time."

Earnhardt is upbeat about seeing Montoya racing in the NEXTEL Cup Series. Montoya will attempt to qualify the No. 30 Ganassi Racing entry Friday for the Ford 400, and will take over the No. 42 Texaco Dodge in 2007 competition.

Will this be the wave of the future for the NEXTEL Cup Series?

"I don’t if that’s the wave of the future, but it’s great for the sport," Earnhardt said. "Juan’s a great guy and seems to have a great character. From what I’ve been able to spend time around him, he seems to have a lot of respect for what we do, and I believe he’ll do a really, really good job. For him to come from where he has, and give up what he has, to come here and put up with the schedule we have, that says a lot about him. I think he’s got great character and great stamina, and I’ll believe he’ll be able to do well in the sport."

Talking about a current NEXTEL Cup rookie, Earhardt had good things to say about fellow Chase survivor Denny Hamlin.

"He’s got a lot raw talent and got a pretty good head on his shoulders," Earnhardt said. "A lot of guys come in, like Jimmie Johnson came in, and Jimmie learned how to drive the cars when he first started out. He became better as he went. Now he’s one of the best in the sport. Where, Denny came in with the raw talent already. He’s a little bit ahead of the learning curve."

Hamlin seemed relaxed at the conference, which featured the five drivers who will battle for the NEXTEL Cup in the Ford 400: Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Earnhardt Jr. and Hamlin.

"Me and Junior nicknamed this table the slim chance table," Hamlin wisecracked at the conference.

"All I asked for when this whole thing started was just to have a chance," Hamlin said of The Chase. "Whether it was an outside chance or not, I wanted to have a chance going into Homestead.

"My goals shifted throughout the entire season," Hamlin said. "It started out I just wanted to have a chance to be in The Chase. I made it, and now it’s here at Homestead. For us, it’s a big unknown of what we’ve got this weekend, especially since I’ve never really raced here. I got in a very early crash last year, and didn’t really get for run many laps. For myself, I’m excited about this weekend. We’re in a position where we can be so aggressive. We really have nothing to lose. If nothing bad happens, we’re going to lose one spot in the points if we’re terrible, but we’ve got everything to gain. We’re very fortunate in that aspect."

Surprisingly smiling and upbeat at the conference was Matt Kenseth.

"We’ve been Mr. Doom and Gloom the last few weeks," he said. "I think we’re due for a good run. I feel good about the week and I don’t know why. I felt down the last few weeks and we didn’t do well. Maybe it’s going to change this weekend."

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