Race Weekend Central

Nextel Cup Rookie Report: Juan Pablo Montoya Does the Monster Mash

Rookies in the Starting Lineup: Juan Pablo Montoya (second), AJ Allmendinger (11th), David Reutimann (13th), David Ragan (35th), Paul Menard (38th)

Unofficial Finishing Positions: Montoya (10th), Reutimann (18th), Menard (21st), Ragan (25th), Allmendinger (43rd)

Rookie of the Race: 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 385. 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 Ragan in that category.

Tony’s Take: After a three-week hiatus from the top rookie finisher (all earned by 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: 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: Reutimann. On lap 364, the machines of John Andretti and Tony Raines got together on the backstretch, sending Andretti hard into the wall. 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 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 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…

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.

Montoya on his run-in with 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.

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

Season Scorecard: Tony 6, Readers 7

About the author

Tony Lumbis has headed the Marketing Department for Frontstretch since 2008. Responsible for managing our advertising portfolio, he deals with our clients directly, closing deals while helping promote the site’s continued growth both inside and outside the racing community through social media and traditional outlets. Tony is based outside Philadelphia.

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