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Publication: NASCAR News
Montoya honored as Rookie of Year

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         NASCAR NEWS - Thursday, November 29, 2007
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Montoya honored as 2007 Raybestos Rookie of Year
Ragan, Allen take Busch, Truck awards, respectively
By Ron Lemasters, NASCAR.COM

CONCORD, N.C. - For Juan Montoya, David Ragan and Willie 
Allen, Tuesday was a day they'd looked forward to for about 
10 months. 

On Tuesday, in front of the Speedway Club at Lowe's Motor 
Speedway, the three Raybestos Rookie of the Year winners 
peeled the yellow stripes off their bumpers and joined the 
ranks of NASCAR veterans. 

"When I first came here, they told me I was running for 
Raybestos Rookie of the Year, and I was like, 'you've got 
to be kidding me,'" said Montoya, the 1999 Indianapolis 500 
winner and a seven-time winner in Formula One. "I thought 
I would be an exception or something. In a lot of ways, I 
really was a rookie. Do I have a lot of experience as a 
racing driver? Yes, but I've never been in a stock car 
before, so coming here and getting into it was a big deal. 
We had a lot of fun." 

The biggest hurdle Montoya had to overcome was reading his 
racecar, he said. 

"At Daytona, first race of the year, I thought we had a 
good car, and we did, but after Lap 5, it was so tight I 
was just about to get lapped every time it went yellow," 
Montoya said. "It's just knowing how far off I was when I 
thought the car was good. When you think you have a good 
car, you're still miles away, and other times when you're 
so loose you're about to kill yourself, you're competitive. 

"To get that into your system is pretty hard." 

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It's also a financial honor, as Montoya will receive a 
record $106,500 at next week's NASCAR Awards Banquet in 
New York City. The initial payout for the Raybestos program 
is $65,000, with another $24,000 coming from winning Rookie 
of the Race honors. 

He also earned another $17,500 for being the top rookie 
finisher in five of the Magnificent Seven bonus races this 
season. 

Montoya won the rookie battle over Ragan by 24 points, 
winning Rookie of the Race honors in three of the last 
five races to earn that edge. Rookie of the Year points 
are awarded on a 10-1 scale (the highest-finishing rookie 
gets 10 points, the second highest-finishing rookie gets 
9, etc.). 

"It's been an exciting year for me," Montoya said. "Coming 
to NASCAR was a big deal for me, and I wanted to go back 
and enjoy racing, and I think I achieved that here. The 
cars are a handful, and it's been a really hard transition. 

"I learned a lot, and I would like to thank everyone at 
Raybestos for all they've done for us." 

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Montoya is the fourth driver of the Texaco-Havoline car 
to win rookie of the year honors, joining the late Davey 
Allison (1987), the late Kenny Irwin (1998) and Jamie 
McMurray (2003), and he's the second to drive the No. 42 
for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (McMurray). 

Ragan finished second to Montoya in the Nextel Cup rookie 
battle, but won the honor in the Busch Series over fellow 
Ford driver Marcos Ambrose, 272-245. 

"There were a lot of ups and downs, running both series," 
Ragan said. "We came close to Juan on the Cup side, and I 
learned a lot on Saturdays to race with on Sunday. I 
learned to use the things I learned one day and incorporate 
it to the following day. At times it was pretty challeng-
ing." 

As successful as he was in his rookie season, there were 
still some rookie moments for Ragan. 

"I remember going to Watkins Glen and it had rained Friday 
and we didn't get a lot of practice in the Cup car," he 
said. "On Saturday, I went out for Busch practice and got 
off into the campground or something, the spotter couldn't 
see where I was... I was over by the Trans-Am cars and I 
was just trying to find my way onto the track. A lot of 
these guys have been to these tracks 15 or 20 times, and 
here I am my first time there and getting lost." 

Ragan, son of former NASCAR driver Ken Ragan, is the third 
consecutive driver from what is now known as Roush Fenway 
Racing to earn the award in the Busch Series, following 
Carl Edwards in 2005 and Danny O'Quinn last year. Greg 
Biffle won the award for Roush in 2001. 

Allen, who drove the No. 13 ThorSport Racing Chevrolet 
Silverado, won the Craftsman Truck Series award by a narrow 
eight points over Tim Sauter, 196-188. He won the Raybestos 
Rookie of the Race title five times, including three of the 
last six races to take the title. Sauter won two of the 
last three races to make it close. 

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"This means a lot," he said. "I can't thank Raybestos and 
NASCAR enough. Just to be on the list of all the drivers 
who have received it in the past and gone on to the Cup 
Series and made a name for themselves is an honor. 

"This is the goal all of us rookies set out to achieve, 
winning Raybestos Rookie of the Year. That was our goal 
and we achieved it, myself and the team, and no matter 
what happens from here, they can't take this away from 
us." 

Allen, who will return to the Thor Chevy next season, is 
confident that 2008 will see his team improve on his 15th-
place championship finish. 

"We're really close," Allen said. "We had some mechanical 
failures early this year and we think we have those fixed, 
so we are really close to competing for top-five and top-10 
finishes every week." 

Raybestos officials also announced a new logo for the 2008 
season, the first redesign in the 10 years the company has 
been the sponsor of the rookie awards. 

Raybestos, a division of Affinia Group Inc., is a global 
leader in the on- and off-highway replacement parts and 
service industry and is based in McHenry, Ill. 

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END OF NASCAR NEWS 
Copyright 2007 by NextEra Media. All rights reserved.

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