Gilliland, Montoya shine in Daytona testing

Updated: January 16, 2007, 2:20 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It's only testing, but Robert Yates Racing is showing signs it doesn't plan to spend another season as an also-ran in the Nextel Cup garage.

David Gilliland, who drives the No. 38 Ford for RYR, turned the fastest lap in Daytona testing Monday. Gilliland's top lap of 185.090 mph came in his backup car.

That's two in a row for RYR. Ricky Rudd led the final test session of the first group of drivers on Thursday.

Rudd, returning after a one-year layoff, placed the No. 88 Ford in the top 15 in all six outings last week. Gilliland kept the ball rolling for an organization that had its worst season in a decade last year.

Monday also was a strong first day for Juan Pablo Montoya. The former Formula One star was sixth on the speed chart (184.570 mph) in the No. 42 Dodge.

"I think the car is behaving really good," Montoya said. "From what I hear, we've stepped it up from where we were last year. It's still very early. We'll take it step by step. We're trying different things, and we'll see what happens. Hopefully, we'll get good results. I think the new nose should help the car a lot."

The Dodge teams struggled in the first week of testing, but things improved Monday. David Stremme had the fourth-best lap Monday (184.729 mph) in the No. 40 Charger.

Monday also was a strong outing for Toyota. Jeremy Mayfield had the second-best lap overall, at 184.854 mph, in the No. 36 Camry for Bill Davis Racing.

Jeff Gordon had a good start to the week, posting the third-best lap of the day (184.854 mph) in the No. 24 Chevy.

The biggest disappointment Monday was 72-year-old James Hylton. He had the slowest speed of the session at 180.058 mph in the No. 58 Chevy. Hylton hasn't competed in the Daytona 500 since 1983. If he qualifies, he would become the oldest driver ever to race in a Cup event.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter