The Frontstretch: Nextel Cup Rookie Report: Montoya does the Monster Mash by Tony Lumbis -- Sunday September 23, 2007

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Nextel Cup Rookie Report: Montoya does the Monster Mash

Tony Lumbis · Sunday September 23, 2007


Rookies in the Starting Lineup: Juan Pablo Montoya (2nd), A.J. Allmendinger (11th), David Reutimann (13th), David Ragan (35th), Paul Menard (38th)

Unofficial Finishing Positions: Juan Pablo Montoya (10th), David Reutimann (18th), Paul Menard (21st), David Ragan (25th), A.J. Allmendinger (43rd)

Rookie of the Race: Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya tied this career best starting position by placing his Donnie Wingo-prepared Dodge on the outside of the front row for the third time this season (The other two second place starts were at Indianapolis and the August Bristol race). Matching the start with an equally impressive finish did not look likely for much of the day, however. The No. 42 Avenger quickly dropped out of the Top 10 as Montoya and Wingo fought a loose condition throughout much of the race. But after running around 15th for virtually the entire event – surviving a brush with Jamie McMurray in the process – the team was able to make a late surge after avoiding a 12-car wreck involving Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, and several others on Lap 485. As the checkered flag flew, Montoya had moved up to 10th, earning his fifth Top 10 finish of the year. It was also the 12th top finishing rookie award for Montoya in 2007, tying him with David Ragan in that category.

Tony's Take: After a three-week hiatus from the top rookie finisher (all earned by David Ragan), Montoya reminded everyone today that he is not finished making noise this season. While he may have not been making headlines over this most recent span, it seems like Montoya was taking notes from the rookie who was. His Sunday performance was very "Raganesque," as he ran quietly under the radar for much of the day before breaking into the Top 10 over the race’s final stages. If Montoya can string together multiple performances like this past weekend – where he qualified well, drove a patient race, and brought home a solid finish – this team should fully expect to be in Chase contention in 2008.

Rocky Rookie Performance: A.J. Allmendinger. The first part of the Dover race weekend looked very encouraging for both Allmendinger and Team Red Bull. Driver and team showed a tremendous amount of maturity as they recovered from a blown engine on the first lap of the first practice on Friday to qualify 11th, a career best for the NASCAR freshman. Appearing to build momentum, the event was the fifth straight race the No. 84 has made after unintentionally taking almost the entire summer off. The high was short-lived, however; Allmendinger dropped a gear at the drop of the green flag, eventually completing only four laps. He finished dead last.

Rookie Wreck of the Race: David Reutimann. On lap 364, the machines of John Andretti and Tony Raines got together on the backstretch, sending Andretti hard into the wall. David Reutimann's No. 00 Toyota could be seen spinning in the aftermath, not really hitting anything as he attempted to miss the melee. Reutimann makes this category not because his wreck was noteworthy, but because of the team's solid recovery afterwards – he stayed on the track and battled back to 18th, the third highest finish of 2007 for the Michael Waltrip Racing's rookie driver.

Who Wasn't Here?: Sam Hornish, Jr. For the second straight week, Hornish, Jr. failed to make the race in a third Roger Penske Dodge. It sure seems like Hornish needs to spend some quality time with his Penske teammate Ryan Newman, who has 41 career poles to his credit.

Rookie Quotes of the Week:

It was a day of explaining for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year contenders after the race…

David Ragan on what happened when he hit a tire on pit road, which ultimately injured Michael Waltrip's crew member:

What happened when you hit the tire on pit road?

I was looking at my tach to make sure that I wasn't speeding or anything and then my spotter hollered at the last minute that there was a tire, and we barely got into it.

Juan Pablo Montoya on his run-in with Jamie McMurray:

He just ran out of road and ran into me. We were running side-by-side for a couple of laps, and that's about it.

A.J. Allmendinger on his early engine woes:

I'm not sure. Either it did the same thing it did in practice, or it jumped back out of gear and it slammed itself, or I missed a shift. That one happened so quick, I'm not sure.

UNOFFICIAL Raybestos Rookie standings:
Montoya 222
Ragan 205
Menard 178
Reutimann 160
Allmendinger 122

Next Up: “There's no place like home” – at least, that’s what the Nextel Cup competitors will be thinking as they head to the Kansas Speedway. It's the first and only trip to this venue for the circuit in 2007, so look for the rookies to rely on their experience from Chicagoland earlier this year. Both tracks, which appeared on the Cup schedule in 2001, share many of the same characteristics, and both are non-COT events.

Tony's Top Finishing Rookie Pick: David Ragan could not make it four in a row for top rookie finishes, as the AAA team could never seem to get it together on Sunday – he struggled to a 25th place finish, fourth among his rookie competitors.

You Make The Pick: You also thought that Ragan would continue his hot streak, as 50% of you chose the No. 6 driver as the top finishing rookie on Sunday. Well, it looks like we all need to rethink "Who's Hot and Who's Not" among rookies for next week. You do maintain your one point advantage heading into Kansas, however.

Tony's Pick for Next Week's Top Finishing Rookie: Using my theory on the Chicagoland comparison, I think David Reutimann will best the rookies next week at Kansas. Yes, he did finish last in the Windy City; however, he was never able to capitalize on his 21st starting position after losing an engine just 43 laps in. I think the team will use the momentum gained from Sunday's Top 20 performance to propel Reutimann to a top rookie finish in the nation's heartland.

Event Track Tony’s Pick Finish Reader’s Pick Finish Top Finishing Rookie Finish
Subway Fresh Fit 500 Phoenix David Ragan 41st —- —- Paul Menard 25th
Aaron’s 499 Talladega David Reutimann 32nd —- —- David Ragan 17th
Crown Royal Presents The Jim Stewart 400 Richmond Paul Menard 16th Juan Pablo Montoya 26th Paul Menard 16th
Dodge Avenger 500 Darlington Juan Pablo Montoya 23rd Paul Menard 31st Juan Pablo Montoya 23rd
Coca-Cola 600 Charlotte Juan Pablo Montoya 28th No Pick DNS Juan Pablo Montoya 28th
Autism Speaks 400 Dover David Ragan 14th David Ragan 14th David Ragan 14th
Pocono 500 Pocono A.J. Allmendinger 39th David Ragan 26th Juan Pablo Montoya 20th
Citizens Bank 400 Michigan David Ragan 21st David Ragan 21st Paul Menard 12th
Toyota / Save Mart 350 Infineon Juan Pablo Montoya 1st Juan Pablo Montoya 1st Juan Pablo Montoya 1st
Lenox Industrial Tools 300 New Hampshire Paul Menard 39th David Reutimann 38th David Ragan 15th
Pepsi 400 Daytona David Reutimann 26th David Ragan 12th David Ragan 12th
USG Sheetrock 400 Chicagoland Paul Menard 42nd David Ragan 25th Juan Pablo Montoya 15th
Allstate 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Juan Pablo Montoya 2nd Juan Pablo Montoya 2nd Juan Pablo Montoya 2nd
Pennsylvania 500 Pocono David Ragan 33rd Juan Pablo Montoya 16th Juan Pablo Montoya 16th
Centurion Boats At The Glen Watkins Glen Juan Pablo Montoya 39th Juan Pablo Montoya 39th Ron Fellows 4th
3M Performance 400 Michigan David Reutimann 23rd David Ragan 18th David Ragan 18th
Sharpie 500 Bristol David Reutimann DNQ David Ragan 41st Juan Pablo Montoya 17th
Sharp Aquos 500 California Paul Menard 24th Juan Pablo Montoya 33rd David Ragan 12th
Chevy Rock ‘N’ Roll 400 Richmond David Ragan 3rd Paul Menard 26th David Ragan 3rd
Sylvania 300 New Hampshire David Reutimann 26th David Ragan 19th David Ragan 19th
Dodge Dealers 400 Dover David Ragan 25th David Ragan 25th Juan Pablo Montoya 10th

Season Scorecard: Tony 6, Readers 7.

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