Open Wheel Stars with Success in NASCAR
Photo by Paul Strickland Jr. / TheRacingExperts.Com
Juan Montoya has won two Cup races and a Nationwide race, all coming at road course races.
With two of the next three races being tracks open wheel drivers have historically had success at, this week, we will take at the three most successful drivers in the sport today with an open wheel background that made the transition within the last few years.
Juan Pablo Montoya - In 2006, Montoya decided to make the big jump from F1 to NASCAR. He was signed on to Chip Ganassi Racing to run the Busch Series in the last three races that season and the final cup race at Homestead. Chip Ganassi hired him to drive the No. 42 car in the Sprint Cup Series in 2007 full time, and that is where he has been ever since. He has scored two career cup wins, coming at Watkins Glen in 2010, and Sonoma in 2007. He was the first of many open-wheelers to transition to NASCAR and have success right away.
Sam Hornish Jr. - Sam was always a very competitive IndyCar driver who won many big races such as the Indianapolis 500 in 2006, and three IndyCar Championships. Roger Penske decided to bump Sam into NASCAR, and give him a chance at a Busch ride part-time in 2007. The following season he was given a chance to drive in the Sprint Cup Series with car No. 77 and sponsor Mobil 1. He stayed in that ride for three years recording only eight top 10's. In 2011, Penske decided to move Sam to Nationwide part-time. It turned out to be better for Sam as he won his first ever NASCAR race in Phoenix in November. Presently, he runs full time in the Nationwide series and is currently 4th in points.
Danica Patrick - Danica has been one of the most popular IndyCar drivers since her rookie season back in 2005. She accomplished a lot of things while being in IndyCar such as becoming the first female to lead in the Indianapolis 500, and being the first woman to win in the IndyCar Series in 2008. After her win, people were all hyped up about what was next for her. In 2010 she moved to NASCAR in the Nationwide Series driving for JR Motorsports. Her transition from IndyCar to NASCAR was not easy by any means. She had her ups and downs in her first season a Nationwide driver. She started to run more races in 2011 recording a 4th place finish at Las Vegas, that being the best finish ever by a female in the sport. This year she decided to step away from IndyCar and switch to full-time NASCAR. This season has gone well for her with leading laps, running up front, and even competing for great finishes. She also was hired by Stewart-Haas Racing to drive in the Sprint Cup Series for ten races. So far she has not had much success there, but she has gained experience to help her in future races. By the time 2013 rolls around she hopes to be competing in the Cup Series full-time and hoping that she can be a Nationwide Series winner at last.