Jpms Challenge: Car Of This Week

LONG POND, Pa. - Juan Pablo Montoya smiled when he was asked about the challenge going back and forth betwen two different cars in the NEXTEL Cup Series, the old car and the Car of Tomorrow.

"For me, this year, every week is a different car," the Formula One veteran said. "Each car is built a little bit different. Maybe the center of gravity is lower, or a little higher, or a little bit heavier, or a little more downforce. We have the COT car, the mile and a half car, the superspeedway car – and every car handles different. It’s not easy, but it’s fun. I don’t mind it at all. I think for the team it’s more frustrating than for the drivers."

Just don’t call him a rookie.

"I don’t think I ever really looked at myself as a rookie," said the 1999 CART champion and 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner who is in his first full season racing stock cars. "I’ve looked at myself more as a guy that needs to do the job, and that’s it. Sometimes we’ve just got to do the job, and then, like here, I don’t have a single lap around this place. I’ve got one hour, 20 minutes or something to practice, and then I have to qualify. I’ve never been here. I have no idea what the car’s going to do, I have no idea what the track’s going to do – that’s a bit of a challenge

But that’s what makes it real interesting."

He admits that the NASCAR rule giving the top 35 in the car owner points an automatic berth in each race is a huge advantage.

"I have no pressure qualifying – we’re in the field, so it’s more of a matter of getting ready and seeing how comfortable I am," Montoya said. "This is probably one of the trickiest tracks we come to because every corner is different. We’re back in the old car again. We’ll see."

Montoya will start the race 38th – second-slowest driver to qualify for the race on time. Now, he’s looking to shake the streak of bad luck which has followed him in recent weeks.

"I knew it was going to be tough coming to NASCAR," he said. "Actually, I performed better than I expected and everybody else expected. What it’s been the last few weeks has been hard, we had bad luck and have been finishing in the mid 20s. I think that’s what everybody expected my whole season was going to be."

McCumbee Set for Debut

Racing for Petty Enterprises in Sunday’s Pocono 500 is a dream come true for Chad McCumbee, who is subbing for Kyle Petty this weekend in the No. 45 Goody’s Cool Orange Dodge.

If ARCA graduate Chad McCumbee had to pick one track for his Cup debut, it would have been Pocono Raceway.

"If there was place to do it, this is where I’d rather do it," McCumbee said. "Pocono is one of my favorite tracks, and I’ve been successful in the ARCA car there. It’s not actually an easy place to drive, but it’s somewhere that I was able to catch on to pick. If there was a place I could pick, it honestly would have been Pocono. So when that came up, I was excited about it."

McCumbee will start 35th in Sunday’s race. He will also race in Saturday afternoon’s Pocono 200 ARCA RE/MAX Series race, starting fifth in the Victory Junction Gang Dodge.

"I think the biggest difference between the Cup and ARCA cars are the tires and the spoiler. After testing a Cup car, these guys are so smart over here it’s amazing how they can find downforce in other areas to make up for having the big spoiler in the ARCA car, so much drag alone. I don’t think it will be that much of an adjustment, except the field will be so much different. Before, when I went to Pocono in ARCA, I’m racing five or seven guys for the win. Sunday, I’m going to be racing 35 guys for the win, that’s the biggest adjustment."

Travel Agent’s Nightmare

Friday, David Reutimann qualified second for the ARCA race, then said he wouldn’t be around to drive the No. 22 Toyota. The Cup Series rookie will be in Nashville for a Busch Series race. The reason he qualified the car was because Josh Wise was racing at Texas Motor Speedway in Friday night’s Craftsman Truck Series race, where he finished 13th in the Aaron’s Toyota.

Reutimann is one of nine Cup regulars planning to race Saturday night in Nashville.

"More than likely, as quick as we get done with Saturday morning practice here we’ll grab a bag and head on out to the helicopter. From there to the airport, and then to the other airport and back on a helicopter to the racetrack," Reutimann said of today’s plans.

Meanwhile, Mark Green practiced in Reutimann’s No. 99. Also practicing at Nashville were Chad Chaffin in the No. 1 (J.J. Yeley), Brandon Miller in the No. 2, Augie Vidovich in the No. 6 (David Ragan), Chad Blount in the No. 10 (Dave Blaney), Carlos Contreras in the No. 22 (Mike Bliss), Bobby East in the No. 37 Jamie McMurray), Scott Lagasse Jr. in the No. 41 (Reed Sorenson) and Matt McCall in the No. 60 (Carl Edwards).

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