NOVEMBER 15, 2006

Montoya aims for Nextel Cup debut this weekend

Chip Ganassi Racing has confirmed that it will enter Juan Pablo Montoya in the Ford 400, the final round of the NASCAR Nextel Cup, this weekend at Homestead in Florida. The former McLaren F1 driver will try to qualify in Ganassi's number 30 car, which means that he will not automatically start the race. Regular runners in NASCAR get a guaranteed spot in the qualifying if the car is in the top 35 in the Car Owner points. The aim of this is to encourage teams to be at every race rather than coming and going. In addition to that there are seven spots which are available for the fastest non-guaranteed drivers. If a non-guaranteed driver runs quickest in qualifying he starts on pole. The final place on the grid - the 43rd spot - is reserved for any former NASCAR Champion who does not qualify on points or speed. If no-one fits the bill, the slot goes to the eighth fastest non-guaranteed driver. In recent races there have been up to 10 drivers who fail to qualify and these have included some serious names such as Jeremy Mayfield, Derike Cope and Morgan Shepherd, all of whom have won races in the past. AJ Allmendinger has also failed to make the cut recently so it is not going to be easy for Montoya, although his pace in recent Busch Series races should be enough. Montoya will race in the number 42 Ganassi car next year but that belongs to Casey Mears - a guaranteed starter - in Homestead.