Nextel Cup Rookie of the Year: Montoya vs. Menard
Topics: Nextel Cup, Juan Pablo Montoya, Paul Menard
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Based on fans' commentary on the upcoming season, the Rookie of the Year battle has been narrowed down to two favorites: Paul Menard and Juan Pablo Montoya.
The fact that the drivers could not be more different makes for an exciting showdown between one of the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Chevrolets and a Dodge piloted by a former Formula 1 winner.
Here's a look at the two drivers' basic stats, and how they got to NASCAR's top level:
|Paul Menard||Juan Pablo Montoya|
|August 21, 1980||Birthdate||September 20, 1975|
|Eu Claire, Wisconsin||Hometown||Bogota, Colombia|
|Single||Family||Married to Connie Freydell|
|Briggs Junior Class Championship|
Briggs Medium Class Champion
|Youth racing success||1981-1984 Karting Colombian National Champion|
1986, 1987, 1989 Komet Category National Champion
1990, 1991 Kart Junior World Championship
|ARCA ReMax Challenge Series, 1 win and 9th in points in 2001|
ARCA ReMax Challenge Series, 2 poles and 7th in points in 2002
2 Grand-Am Cup wins in 2002
|Early Racing Career||Colombian Formula Renault, 4 wins in 8 races|
GTI National Championship Tournament, 7 wins and 7 poles in 8 races
Sudan 125 karting champion
Barber Saab series, 2 wins
Mexican 'N' series, 3 wins in 5 races
2-time class winner, Bogotá Six Hours
|Joined Andy Petree Racing in 2003|
Moved to Dale Earnhardt, Inc. in 2004
|Advancing Career||1997 F3000, 2nd in points|
1998 F3000 Champion
1999 CART FedEx Champ Car World Series Champion
2000 Indianapolis 500 Winner
|First Nextel Cup top-10 at 2006 Golden Corral 500|
First Busch Series win at 2006 SBC 250
|Racing at the Top Level||From 2001 to 2006 won 7 Formula 1 Grands Prix and 13 poles, top points finish was 3rd in 2002 and 2003, average points finish 4.8|
|10 International Ice Racing Association wins||Other Racing||Daytona Prototype class winner and overall winner at 2007 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona|
|6th in points, 1 win in NASCAR Busch Series||2006 Season||8th in points in Formula 1 after an incomplete season|
|7 races, 45th in points, 1 top-10||2006 Nextel Cup Experience||1 race (accident), 69th in points|
In almost any form of motorsport Juan Pablo Montoya's experience can only be matched by an elite few. However, he's not entering just any motorsport, he's entering the Nextel Cup, and Paul Menard has vastly more stock car racing experience than Montoya's handful of ARCA and NASCAR races. Montoya's experience makes him a solid pick for any fantasy racing team for Sonoma and Watkins Glen, but Paul Menard has DEI Chevy power to help out at the restrictor plate races, of which there are 4 compared to the 2 road course events.
At the team level, Juan Pablo Montoya's Ganassi Racing team has the advantage of being an established group with a solid 2006 finish. Even counting by points-per-race to even the score between a full-time team and a part-time team, there is a 13.15 point per race advantage to Montoya/Ganassi. However, team chemistry being what it is, Menard's team could click early or Montoya could struggle with his new crew, erasing that advantage.
Another issue with teams is mentorship. Paul Menard will have Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s experience to draw from, while Juan Pablo Montoya is teamed with David Stremme and Reed Sorenson, both rookies in 2006 and winless at NASCAR's top level.
Here's a look at the teams Menard and Montoya will be driving for in 2007:
|Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||2007 Team||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|Bright yellow||Car Color||Black|
|Chevrolet Monte Carlo||Car||Dodge Charger|
|Paul Menard (part-time)||Team's 2006 Driver||Casey Mears|
|45th in points in 7 races||Team's 2006 Performance||14th in points|
|95.57||2006 Points per Race||108.72|
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