Solid Beginning For Montoya

The car he's driving may be drastically different than what he's used to, but the results are as solid as anything Juan Pablo Montoya has done during his career.

The NEXTEL Cup Series rookie impressed a lot of people on Sunday when the former Indy 500 winner and Formula One regular recorded the fourth fastest speed of the day in Sunday's Daytona 500 qualifications.

Montoya turned in a lap of 185.338 mph in his Texaco Havoline Dodge, right behind his Chip Ganassi racing teammate David Stremme's effort of 185.487 mph.

"You're still on the edge but, here it's a little different," Montoya explained about the difference between driving a Cup car and one of the non-fendered variety. "Here, by yourself, it's not that hard. The car moves around a little, but it's not so bad. The thing here is the drafting. When you're running in a pack, it makes it very entertaining."

The qualifying run was impressive, but a bit short of the front row speeds turned in by polesitter David Gilliland and second quick Ricky Rudd.

So Montoya will still have to race in Thursday's Twin 150 mile qualifying race to have his Daytona 500 starting spot determined.

"It doesn't really make so much difference," Montoya said. "Yes, it's a big deal (to be in the front row), but I'll be happier to be in front at the end of the 500. I think the car has come a long way in the performance, but we'll see."

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