The Frontstretch: Meegan's Rookie Report : Kobalt Tools 500 by Meegan Sweeney -- Sunday March 18, 2007

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Meegan's Rookie Report : Kobalt Tools 500

Meegan Sweeney · Sunday March 18, 2007


Rookies in the Starting Lineup: David Ragan, David Reutimann, Paul Menard, Juan Pablo Montoya.

Rookie of the Race: For the second week in a row, Montoya moved another step closer to silencing his skeptics when he bested the field of Raybestos Rookies; this time around, no one else was even close. Montoya contended all day long and finished a career best fifth, the only rookie to end the race on the lead lap. This week’s performance puts the Colombian at the top of the Raybestos points, taking a slim one point lead over fellow rookie David Ragan four races into the season.

Meegan’s Take: Do my eyes deceive me, or is that really a yellow bumper on that Havoline number 42? It seems Montoya's adapting pretty well to stock car racing so far and his crew is backing up that momentum with perfect pit stops that kept him up front all day long.

Rocky Rookie Performance: David Ragan. Seems like the Roush-Fenway engine didn't have that get up and go for the youngster on Sunday, as the 21-year-old lagged behind in the thirties and forties for most of the race. Unlike previous weeks, it was a disappointing run for the AAA Ford as Ragan continues to cool off from a strong start to the year.

Who Wasn’t Here?: A.J. Allmendinger and Brandon Whitt. Allmendinger, driver of the No. 84 Team Red Bull Camry, is now 0-for-4 in making races this season, as he couldn’t crack the top seven among the non-locked in drivers once again in Atlanta qualifying. The No. 84 will take another crack at it next week at Bristol, but who knows what will be in store for Allmendinger and his ride with Team Red Bull; this new team can't afford to have more DNQs.

At least Allmendinger will get another chance. Earlier this week, it was announced CJM Racing was pulling out of the Nextel Cup level and moving to the Busch Series, replacing driver Brandon Whitt in the process. No future plans for Whitt have been announced, putting his rookie of the year bid on hold indefinitely.

Rookie Quote of the Week:

Paul Menard responded the way a veteran might about qualifying:

"That gets really old, all this qualifying not in the top-35, so hopefully we're on our way to get in the top-35 and just have a good race. Hopefully we get another top-10 like we did last year and gain some points and go to Bristol and qualify for that, survive, and be in the top-35 and forget about qualifying for a while. Daytona really hurt us. That was just kind of its own animal though, too. You qualify and then you have to deal with the 150s and it's anybody's race. Not necessarily the fastest car gets in. It's how you race in the 150 and luck and all that. These guys give me an awesome race car every week and this was probably one of our most productive practice sessions that we've had all year as far as making changes to the race car and it responding. This is the first time that we've run this car this year and I think it's a good one."

Official Raybestos Rookie Standings

Montoya 47
Ragan 46
Menard 31
Reutimann 26
A.J. Allmendinger 4
Brandon Whitt 3

Next Up: The series heads to Bristol for the running of the Food City 500. More importantly, the much-anticipated Car of Tomorrow will makes its debut, and rookies and veterans alike will see what this car can do and how it will handle on this heavily banked oval.

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