NASCAR notebook: Pressure on Montoya, Earnhardt seeking sponsor
• With Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing getting a sponsorship deal with Cessna to help finance the No. 1 Chevrolet SS of Jamie McMurray for the Sprint Cup season, the pressure is on teammate Juan Pablo Montoya to regain the confidence of Target executives. Montoya has qualified the No. 42 Chevrolet for the Chase once the past six seasons. “Target is a big brand, and they deserve better than what they've gotten the past couple of years from our team,” owner Chip Ganassi said. “But they also understand you can't win everything all the time. You're going to have some down years, and you have to have the courage to hang in there during lean years then enjoy the fruits of success as we had in 2010.”
• Bruton Smith, majority owner of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., isn't nearly as enthusiastic about the new Generation-6 car, which debuts in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Smith insisted the car is too fast and said he doesn't expect NASCAR officials to make any changes to the car. However, no one appeared prepared to agree with Smith, who added he preferred the Car of Tomorrow, which debuted nearly seven years ago. “Bruton is a promoter, so he can say that,” said McMurray, who won the 2010 Daytona 500 for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. “I haven't heard any drivers complaining that the new car is too fast. I do think the Daytona 500 is going to be a wild event because everyone is still trying to sort through all the changes required to get the car ready for racing.”
• Surprisingly, NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is the only driver in the Hendrick Motorsports stable without a full sponsorship deal. National Guard continues as Earnhardt's primary sponsor but only through the summer. “We've got some good opportunities, but the car is covered (with sponsors) for now,” owner Rick Hendrick said.
— Ralph N. Paulk