All eyes were on Talladega Superspeedway Thursday or at least those who closely follow stock car racing...and some who don't. It was the stock car racing debut of an open wheel veteran, JUAN PABLO MONTOYA of Colombia; it was the second NASCAR Truck Series race for Champ Car veteran, A.J. ALLMENDINGER of San Jose CA; and MARCOS AMBROSE of Australia announced his plans to move up from the Truck Series to the 2007 Busch Series. And let's not forget the rumours swirling about PATRICK CARPENTIER and JACQUES VILLENEUVE of Canada coming to NASCAR. Check out their web sites. And Friday there should be an announcement clearing up just which manufacturer MARK MARTIN will run in the 2007 Truck Series - Ford or Chevrolet. Stay tuned.
Montoya, who has joined the NASCAR Cup team of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, is getting his feet wet, so to speak, by running the ARCA race Friday. In a field of 41 cars, including some experienced ARCA veterans such as BOBBY GERHART/#5 Lucas Oil Chevrolet, FRANK KIMMEL/#46 Pork Ford, and BILLY VENTURINI/No.25 Hamptons Chevrolet, Montoya/#4 Texaco-Havoline Dodge qualified second fastest with a time of 50.546/189.451 mph. The pole went to Gerhart with a 50.537/189.485 mph.
Montoya said "Qualifying here makes your life easy. It makes you look really good, because you were flat (out) the whole time." In the race, he said "I'm probably going to get caught out a couple of times making the wrong moves, but that's part of the learning curve."
Kimmel is going for his eighth ARCA Championship, and Gerhart is trying to make it difficult. Gerhart has more experience on the 2.66-mile tri-oval. Factor in the new pavement and it should be a very interesting race. Kimmel qualified fourth and Venturini will start sixth.
Other road racers trying to make a go of it in Friday afternoon's ARCA-RE/MAX Food World 250 Race are Cyberspeed Racing Chevrolet teammates, TONY AVE/#87 who will start twenty-ninth; and SKIP CUMMINS/#97 Cyberspeed Racing Chevrolet.
The Truck Series had three Practice sessions Thursday, with 36 drivers going for the 36 starting spots in Saturday's John Deere 250 Race. The fastest all day was BOBBY HAMILTON Jr/#18 Fastenal Dodge at 49.366/193.791 mph. Allmendinger/#24 Bill Davis Racing Toyota was eleventh fastest with 49.665/192.812 mph.
Ambrose/#20 Team Australia Ford was fifth fastest in the final practice at 49.585/193.123 mph. He's run most of the 2006 season and is fourth in the Rookie standings, and twenty-fourth overall out of 78 drivers - with three less races.
Ambrose, who has been racing with the Woods Brothers, will continue that partnership and move full time to the Busch Series, with Kingsford as sponsor. Ambrose is at Mount Panorama this weekend for the annual Bathurst 1000 endurance race for the V8 Supercars. Ambrose is a two-time champion of the series.
Roush Racing is expected to make its announcement Friday morning regarding Mark Martin - will he or won't he be racing a Roush Truck in the Truck Series next season? Or...as garage gossip say, will he be sharing the MB2 #01 Chevrolet ride with Rookie REGAN SMITH in NASCAR Nextel Cup - a third car for the two-car team with JOE NEMECHEK and STERLING MARLIN.
Now that the Busch Series (and Grand-Am Rolex Series) have announced that they will run in Montreal next July at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, many expect that Carpentier will run that race, as well as other stock car races. He has been running CASCAR races in Canada and has experience in Montreal with the Atlantic and Champ Car Series. Allmendinger raced Atlantics in Montreal, and Villeneuve raced Atlantics and Formula one on the course named for his uncle. Carpentier and Allmendinger have been on pole with the Atlantic series, and all three have won Atlantic races in Montreal. Carpentier ran two Rolex Series races this season, so could be expected to run double-duty for the Montreal weekend. The Rolex race is a one-day event on Friday, with Busch running Saturday and Sunday.
It should be an interesting weekend in Talladega.