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DATE News (chronologically)
01/31/07
nascar
Montoya Anticipates Learning Curve  Buoyed by a good night’s sleep and a sense of accomplishment, Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) embarked on a second day of preseason testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Tuesday, continuing his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series education.

And, his pursuit of excellence.

Forty-eight hours and three time zones removed from Sunday’s victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway, Montoya was turning stock-car laps after co-driving Sunday’s winning entry with Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Pruett and Salvador Duran.

“It was a great experience actually to get back in the car,” Montoya said of his 3,400-pound NASCAR NEXTEL Cup car.

In fact, the former Indianapolis 500 winner and Formula One star says he’s taking solace in endless laps around Las Vegas’ new racing surface. He knows some of the miles ahead will be tough. He also knows to expect them.

“One day the car works good,” Montoya said. “You look like a hero. Next day the car handles bad and the transition is hard.”

Tuesday marked the second day of the annual two-day preseason test at Las Vegas. NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams return in March for the third of the 2007 season’s 36 events, and by then Montoya will have experienced nearly 1,000 miles of NASCAR competition.

“You got to be a bit realistic,” he admitted. “I never put myself to set some goals and say, ‘I need to do this and that.’ You just got to go out there and do the best you can. It's that simple.”

His best could be exceptional. He won the 2000 Indianapolis 500 on his first attempt (also for Chip Ganassi Racing), and the mystery of what could happen in the 48th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 remains intriguing to fans, garage inhabitants, media and Montoya alike.

“Is it going to be really hard?” he said Tuesday. “Yes, it's going to be really hard. Am I aiming to win? I'm more aiming to get the car to the end of the race to be realistic. Do we have a shot at it? Am I going to try to win it? Yes. I would be really happy if we can get a top 20, top 15 out of that race.

“The key thing out of the first year races is to score good points. If you can keep scoring good points, then you can start worrying about the rest.” NASCAR PR

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