Juan Pablo Montoya praised Kimi Raikkonen's performance in his NASCAR debut last weekend and does not anticipate that the Finn will have much trouble quickly stepping up the stock car ladder.
The Colombian followed the debut of his former McLaren Formula 1 teammate closely, even offering advice during practice and ahead of the race – and admitting they probably talked more than they ever did during their time in F1.
Before Raikkonen ran at Charlotte, Montoya had said he would not choose the mile-and-a-half venue for a start in NASCAR but following Friday's race he said the Finn showed he could adapt quickly not only to the car and track but also to the different style of racing, despite a few brushes with the wall.
"Kimi did really good," said Montoya. "I thing it's good that the trucks are a bit flexible and the noses don't push in the fenders like we do [in Cup], but I think overall he did a good job. He learned a lot. It's funny because he started in the back and [was] patient, he'll start getting it. I think when you follow people you learn what they do and you can pick it up a lot faster."
Montoya remembered how he got plenty of help and support from rivals when he landed in NASCAR in 2006 and said he wanted to show the same kind of support to Raikkonen as he understood what the 2007 F1 World Champion was facing at the start of his NASCAR foray. Their meeting in practice last Friday at Charlotte was their first encounter since they retired on the first lap of the 2006 U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis after a multi-car pile-up in what turned out to be Montoya's final outing in F1.
"It was more the team than him, you know, telling them why is he so loose and why is he struggling," said Montoya. "Our driving styles were a little bit different in Formula 1 but I know what I would like out of a car...I just went to say hi and see how he was doing. People did it to me here and I was really shocked so if I can help, I'll lend my hand."
The Colombian says Raikkonen moving to NASCAR full time will depend on how much he likes it and believes the first impression of the racing can be an eye-opening one. Raikkonen admitted following his debut that the racing part was better than what he expected, as he moved up from 31st on the grid to finish 15th.
"It depends if he likes it – I don't know how much fun he had [on Friday]," said Montoya when asked about the chances of seeing Raikkonen making a full-time move. "I think it's shocking at the beginning of the races – once you race around so many people all the time, it's like 'Wow! Haven't done that in a while, or ever,' you know?"
Montoya doesn't anticipate Raikkonen having much difficulty in stepping up to the Nationwide Series next weekend, as he is already in the preliminary entry list for Saturday's event at Charlotte where he is set to drive a NEMCO Motorsports Toyota prepared by Kyle Busch Motorsports.
"I think [the car] would be very similar [to the truck], but it depends on what car he's in. I don't know, I've never driven a [current] Nationwide car but I think if he has a decent car he should be fine."
Montoya's first Nationwide Series outing was his third stock car race after competing twice in the ARCA series. Driving at Memphis for Chip Ganassi's team, he started the event from ninth and crossed the finish line in 11th place and on the lead lap.