McLaren replaces Montoya, who's moving to NASCAR


WOKING, England -- Juan Pablo Montoya is leaving
McLaren-Mercedes immediately, after deciding to switch to NASCAR
next season. He'll be replaced by test driver Pedro de la Rosa for
the rest of the Formula One season.

"Team McLaren Mercedes and Juan Pablo Montoya have mutually
agreed for him to step down in the forthcoming races of this year's
Formula 1 World Championship," McLaren CEO and chairman Ron Dennis
said Tuesday. "We have agreed that with so many things happening
in Juan Pablo's life right now, he should take some time out of the
car and prepare professionally and personally for the future."

On Sunday, Montoya said he would be leaving F1 at the end of the
season for the Nextel Cup series.

Chip Ganassi, the team owner who signed Montoya to the NASCAR
deal, told The Associated Press on Tuesday he does not yet know the
details of the driver's release from McLaren.

"But if Juan is available earlier than we expected, our program
for him will definitely get an early start," Ganassi said.

In making the announcement Sunday, Ganassi said that Montoya
would likely make a few starts in the Busch Series after the F1
season ends in October. Asked Tuesday if the possibility of having
Montoya in NASCAR earlier than expected means he also could run a
few Nextel Cup events this year, Ganassi said, "It's certainly
possible, but that's about the third or fourth step in this whole
situation. We need to know all the details first before we start
making plans."

De la Rosa will race alongside Kimi Raikkonen at the French
Grand Prix on Sunday.

"I know the MP4-21 [car] better than anyone else and I'm
confident that I can achieve important world championship points
for the team," De la Rosa said.

The 35-year-old Spaniard raced for Jaguar in 2001 and 2002, and
finished fifth at the Bahrain Grand Prix last year when Montoya was

"I know that it will be a tough transition, but I'm really
excited about the opportunity to move into the NASCAR
championship," Montoya said Tuesday. "I have enjoyed most of my
time in Formula 1 and I'm grateful for this opportunity to settle
my personal life and concentrate on my future career."

Montoya, who was sixth in this year's F1 championship, had seven
victories in 95 starts in F1.