Rough day for open-wheel converts

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

DAYTONA, Fla. -- At the start of yesterday's 50th running of the Daytona 500 there were three former Indianapolis 500 winners on the grid with 2000 champ Juan Pablo Montoya starting 10th in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge.

It was pretty much downhill from there for Montoya until near the end of the race when pit-stop strategy put him in a position to challenge but an incident with Clint Bowyer left him back in 32nd at the finish.

Sam Hornish Jr., the 2006 Indy winner kept his No. 77 Penske South Racing Dodge in the hunt for most of the day, until he was involved in an incident with defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and he would finish 19th.

FRANCHITTI 33RD

Dario Franchitti, the 2007 Indy champ, started his No. 40 Ganassi Racing Dodge from the next to last row and pretty much just ran laps, going down a lap early and finishing 33rd.

There had been much debate leading up to the Daytona 500 whether so many open-wheel drivers coming to NASCAR would be good for the sport, but yesterday's winning team owner Roger Penske said that speed and not background must be criteria in any for of racing.

"Juan set the table for everybody last year," he said. "That showed a lot of people in the garage that open-wheel guys are good drivers too."

On his driver Hornish, Penske said that with him being so young (28) he's not affected by what people may think of him.

Meanwhile, 1995 Indy 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve may be gone from the NASCAR Sprint Cup series but Patrick Carpentier, who also raced at Indy, will be back at California Speedway at Fontana next Sunday in the No. 10 Gillett Evernham Motorsports Dodge.

Carpentier just missed qualifying for yesterday's Daytona 500 but the team has committed to a whole season for the native of Jolliett, Que.

"We feel Patrick has what it takes to race in the Cup series," team co-owner Ray Evernham said.

Carpentier, however, must qualify on speed for the next four races as the No. 10 team is not among the top 35 from 2007 that get automatic starting spots in NASCAR's first five races.


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