Saturday, April 02, 2011

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: McFarling: Juan Pablo Montoya adds flavor to vanilla Sprint Cup event

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by Juan Pablo Montoya: Still the best personality in NASCAR.

Q: Haven't you already written that column?

A: Yes, I have. But I was reminded of his greatness Friday during the Sprint Cup driver press conferences at Martinsville Speedway, where they trotted out the top guys in the points standings. It's vanilla, vanilla, vanilla -- JUAN!

Q: Do you want to interrupt Q&A-Mac for a little Q&Juan?

A: Let's. The next exchange is an actual one from the press conference.

Q: "Can you explain to race fans what it's like to be four-wide, 20-deep, voices-in-your-head at a place like Talladega?"

A (Montoya): "It's very relaxing."

Q: Good stuff. Any other sweet nuggets from Montoya?

A: When he was asked about how maturity factors into success in NASCAR, he said: "I don't think there's a certain age you have to be. Look at Joey Logano. He's like, what, 15? And he's as mature as they come."

Q: Speaking of racing and youth, 14-year-old Michael McGuire of Vinton is slated to make his Late Model Stock debut at Motor Mile Speedway today. Thoughts?

A: Awesome. What a great story this kid has been thus far -- barnstorming different tracks, setting records for precociousness. And on top of his driving skills, he's got a winning personality. Everybody who's talked to him says they feel like they're chatting with a 20-year-old, not a guy nearly two years shy of qualifying for a driver's license.

Q: Can he win a race this season?

A: I'd be surprised if it happened this year. A lot of people don't realize how brutal the competition is at Motor Mile. But he didn't finish any worse than seventh in his Limited Sportsman starts last year, so he's clearly got a decent feel for the place. He's won a Late Model race at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, N.C., too, which is impressive when you consider he was 12 when he did it. Eventually he should become a champion like his uncle Tony was, but at Motor Mile, it will take time.

Q: What was the best reader comment on the blog this week?

A: That would be from Rick H., regarding Virginia Commonwealth making the Final Four two weeks after not gathering to watch the selection show. "Good for VCU for taking advantage of the opportunity. It is kind of like the kid that is 6-foot-3, 225, runs a 4.4 forty, but has a 2.5 GPA. If he graduates from that major university he's playing football for, not having a snowball's chance in hell of ever getting into the school on his own academic record without a football scholarship, it's a good example of taking advantage of one of life's real opportunities."

Q: Wild stab here. Is Rick H. a Virginia Tech basketball fan?

A: You got it.

Q: Who do you like in today's national semifinals?

A: Give me both of the underdogs: VCU over Butler and Connecticut over Kentucky. As much as I'd like to see the Rams win it all, I think Kemba Walker and the Huskies nip them in Monday's final.

Q: And who wins the Cup race Sunday?

A: Gotta go with Jimmie Johnson. Denny Hamlin's won three straight here, but he's had so much rotten luck so far this season that it's hard to pick him. Tony Stewart's got a good shot. But in the end, the No. 48 will give us its sixth different winner in six races this season.

Q: Any chance Montoya will sit in with Johnson in the postgame press conference?

A: We can always hope.

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