Miami's Montoya Marking Some Territory En Route to Homestead

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On the heels of collecting his first NEXTEL Cup win last month, Juan Pablo Montoya this weekend made history as the first driver ever to compete in all three major events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: the Indy 500 (2000 winner), Formula One's U.S. Grand Prix and now the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

Oh, and Montoya almost won—finishing second to Tony Stewart in his inaugural race at Indy while driving a Nextel Cup car.

In other words, the Miami resident is building quite the road resume en route to a return home for NASCAR's Ford Championship Weekend finale, Nov. 16-18, at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"I feel like I've learned probably like 40 percent of what I've got to learn," Montoya told The Indy Star. "I think we're miles off."

Modesty aside, he took the checkered flag at June's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. It was the first Nextel Cup victory for the Colombian-born driver in this, his first full season on the NASCAR circuit.

"It's an amazing accomplishment for the sport, as it exemplifies the success of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program, relating to both participants and audience base," said Homestead-Miami Speedway President Curtis Gray. "This is a big step forward in the recognition of a world-class Hispanic driver.

"With Juan Pablo being a South Florida resident, it's also very important for Homestead-Miami Speedway and our own outreach to an expanding fan base. He's reached the top level of some of the greatest stock car drivers in the world by winning a NEXTEL Cup event, which for him is a brand new circuit."

The win in Sonoma came on a road course—noted to be Montoya's strong suit—while Homestead-Miami Speedway is home to a 1.5-mile oval.

"I think on ovals I'm just starting to get the hang of it," the 31-year-old driver told the Charlotte Observer just prior to his runner-up finish at the Brickyard. "When I get comfortable in the car, I'm competitive."

That said, the Allstate 400 clearly made for a comfortable ride. And Montoya has a couple of months to continue honing his stock-car skills before returning home to race Homestead-Miami Speedway under the lights. The former open-wheel champ sounds as though he'll be pretty charged up when he arrives in South Florida.

"Does Formula One handle 100 times better than a NASCAR? Yes, it does," he told the paper. "Does it have more technology? Yes. Everybody knows that. It's not a secret….But is racing a NASCAR 100 times better than racing an F1 car? Yes."

"…Racing is when you overtake someone on the track and race somebody, and you don't see that like you see it NASCAR, anywhere."

Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 16-18) are on sale now. The Ford 200/Craftsman Truck race is set for Friday and the Ford 300/Busch on Saturday; the weekend culminates with Sunday's Ford 400—the final race in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

In addition to the races, Ford Championship Weekend includes the Ford Racefest extravaganza in Ft. Lauderdale—featuring live concerts, interactive exhibits, NASCAR drivers and the NEXTEL Cup trophy on display—as well as the Homestead-Miami Speedway Celebrity Golf Classic and Ford's "Bailando Por La Copa" ("Dancing for the Cup") salsa-dance finals.

For more information on Ford Championship Weekend and all Homestead-Miami Speedway events, log on to www.HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com. For tickets, call 866-409-RACE or visit www.Racetickets.com.

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