NASCAR Wire Service Distributed by The Sports Xchange LONG POND, Pa. -- Just when Dale Earnhardt Jr. is really getting the hang of NASCAR's current Sprint Cup race car, the sport will transition to new designs in 2013. But Earnhardt, who took over the series lead last Sunday at Indianapolis, is confident his Hendrick Motorsports team can make a smooth transition to a race car that features more distinctive lines and brand identity than its predecessor. "It's a source of concern just because it's a big change," Earnhardt told the NASCAR Wire Service. "The chassis is the same. I really like the look of the car. It's a lot more exciting, as far as race cars go, to look at. I think fans will grasp it and appreciate it more. "I'm with the best organization in the business, and who better to be with to handle a big change like that. I feel confident that we'll develop this car and understand it and progress with it quicker than most. I'll be able to enjoy that through performance on the race track. "That's what I expect to happen. I'm looking forward to it. I think it's not going to be as big of a deal as the COT (Car of Tomorrow, the name given to the current car when it was introduced in 2007). The COT was a complete revision from the chassis all the way up. This car has the same chassis, so the bridge isn't quite as long." Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt's teammate, is one of four drivers scheduled to participate in a Goodyear tire test in 2013 cars Tuesday and Wednesday at Martinsville Speedway, where reporters and fans will get their first up-close look at next year's Chevy SS. OPTIMISTIC MONTOYA Juan Pablo Montoya paid a visit to the Pocono Media Center on Friday to announce a new deal with Kellogg's in concert with primary sponsor Target, a promotion that features his likeness on boxes of Rice Krispies, Vrooms and Strawberry Pop Tarts. Now all Montoya needs to do is find some snap, crackle and pop for his race cars. Though he is 21st in the Cup standings with only two top-10s this season, Montoya is convinced his fortunes with the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet are on the upswing. Nevertheless, Montoya sometimes finds it difficult to be patient with the process. "We all get frustrated," he said. "We always have our moments. I will tell you the truth -- if you don't get frustrated, it's because you don't care. I care a lot about this program. We have our good moments, our bad moments, but I know how hard people are working to make this better. "I've worked harder this year than any other year. We really want to come out ahead on this. I think we've got a ton of new people in the shop, and we have good ideas. Our starting point was so far off that, to get there, it's going to be a long road." POCONO AMBASSADOR? If the Pocono Mountains region decides to hire a new spokesperson, one thing is certain -- it won't be Tony Stewart. During his media availability on Friday, Stewart shut down a reporter who asked the reigning Cup champion what he liked and disliked most about coming to Pocono. "The thing I look forward to the most is getting on the helicopter to leave," Stewart said. "The thing I look forward to the least is getting off the plane when I get here."
- Juan Pablo Montoya