Montoya Settling Into The NASCAR Life


Wednesday, March 14th 2007, 7:42 am
By: News On 6


LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Juan Pablo Montoya had little time to celebrate his first NASCAR victory _ the Busch Series race in Mexico City _ before traveling to Las Vegas for the Nextel Cup race.

Most drivers flock to the Strip, settling into five-star hotels before hitting the party scene. But Montoya avoided all that and instead stayed at the track in his temporary motorhome. His custom-ordered bus won't arrive until summer, but Montoya and his wife, Connie, feel right at home in the rental.

``I love motorhome living,'' she said from the kitchen area, where she sliced chicken breasts for a pre-race lunch. ``I love the cooking and cleaning and having friends and family around. We've been to Monaco and Barcelona and done all the hotels and restaurants.

``We just want to feel like we are home.''

The Montoyas are settling into the new world of NASCAR, which has embraced the former Formula One star since his defection to stock cars.

He dominated the headlines following his March 4 win in Mexico, where he came from 19th to first and bumped teammate Scott Pruett out of his way en route to the victory. The performance earned him praise in Vegas, where he saw many Cup stars for the first time since the win.

``I knew that Juan Montoya was one of the greatest drivers in the world, but boy, did he show everybody,'' driver Mark Martin said. ``The incident that he and Pruett had, it was an unfortunate incident. It was not something that needed to take place for him to win the race. It certainly doesn't discredit the win, by any means.

``He certainly put on a driving clinic for everyone out there, and that was awesome.''

Last week, Montoya tried to put Mexico in his rearview mirror and focus on Las Vegas. The challenges of the reconfigured race track were tremendous even for the Nextel Cup regulars.

He qualified fourth but fell a lap down early and finished 22nd in what he said was his toughest NASCAR race to date. He's currently 22nd in the Nextel Cup points standings and trails David Ragan by seven points in the race for rookie of the year.

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Montoya sat down for a short Q&A with AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer:

Q: You won the Busch race in Mexico City, then came to Las Vegas for the Cup event. Did you receive any reception from the drivers once you got here?

JPM: ``It's been really good. Everybody has been really happy for me, and it's been great to see that. But it's what I said about this business: It was great, but it was last week. For me, yeah, we got our first one out of the way. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter anymore. We move on to a different race, and we just have to move on to the next one.''

Q: Is it different for you that drivers took time to talk to you?

JPM: ``Um, yeah. It is different. But it's like everything I said before, it's all just different.''

Q: Of the feedback you did receive, was anyone critical?

JPM: ``No, all positive. They are OK. I think it was one of those racing things. We both went for the same race line. Being my teammate, I tried to back off, and he still didn't give me any room. If he would have given me a foot or two, we wouldn't have touched.''

Q: You stayed in Mexico City an extra day, what did you do?

JPM: ``I went to the pyramids in the morning and flew out in the afternoon.''

Q: I heard you have a favorite taco place in Mexico City. Did you get to eat there?

JPM: ``Yeah, I used to go there a lot when I raced in Mexico, and I went there quite a few times last week. It was really, really good.''

Q: What's it called?

JPM: ``I am not going to tell you. My taco place. Not yours.''

Q: You golfed in J.J. Yeley's tournament. How was that?

JPM: ``It was good, a lot of fun. We played pretty decent, didn't have a great group, but still had a blast. We shot like 5 under. This is the third tournament I have played in, one in Homestead and one in Daytona. I think it is really good, because when it is business, it is all down to business. But when you go out and do things like this, you respect each other a lot more.''