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Nextel Cup Rookie of the Year: Montoya vs. Menard

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Nextel Cup, Juan Pablo Montoya, Paul Menard
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Nextel Cup Rookie of the Year: Montoya vs. Menard

Bill Crittenden
The Crittenden Automotive Library
February 13, 2007

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 MenardJuan Pablo Montoya
August 21, 1980BirthdateSeptember 20, 1975
Eu Claire, WisconsinHometownBogota, Colombia
SingleFamilyMarried to Connie Freydell
Briggs Junior Class Championship
Briggs Medium Class Champion
Youth racing success1981-1984 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 CareerColombian 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 Career1997 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 LevelFrom 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 winsOther RacingDaytona Prototype class winner and overall winner at 2007 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona
6th in points, 1 win in NASCAR Busch Series2006 Season8th in points in Formula 1 after an incomplete season
7 races, 45th in points, 1 top-102006 Nextel Cup Experience1 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 TeamChip Ganassi Racing
Bright yellowCar ColorBlack
Chevrolet Monte CarloCarDodge Charger
MenardsPrimary SponsorTexaco/Havoline
Paul Menard (part-time)Team's 2006 DriverCasey Mears
45th in points in 7 racesTeam's 2006 Performance14th in points
95.572006 Points per Race108.72

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