But it seems as if Juan Montoya, the former Formula One and IndyCar star, is just starting to get warmed up in stock cars. He has been much more consistent this season than ever before in the No. 42 Chevrolet he drives for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, and ranks an impressive ninth in Sprint Cup points heading into this Sunday’s Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
Montoya spoke recently about the status of his race team and how he has turned to wind surfing to help him relax during down time away from the track.
Q: First of all, what is the significance of the retro paint scheme that you’ll run this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
Montoya: Target has asked that we do this paint scheme, which is the same one that I ran when I won the Indy 500 in 2000 for Target. Target has such a rich history with Chip Ganassi Racing, as they are in their 20th season. They also have a history with me, when we won here in 2000 in the Target colors. I am excited that they have encouraged us to run the old paint scheme. Maybe it will end up in Victory Lane again.
Q: Do you think you should be winning more races and contending now for a points championship?
Montoya: I think we are bringing the team together to do that. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a Hendrick car or a Ganassi car or a Gibbs car. It is what it is. I am happy where I am. I am working hard to make sure we become one of those teams.
Right now we are a smaller team and I don’t think it makes a big difference. We’ve shown that as long as you have the right people working for you, you will be fine. I think our car today is as good as anybody’s. We need a little bit more, but everybody does.
You see where we came from last year to where we are right now. When you run third, fourth, fifth … you’re getting there. You are getting close. Then you just have to go from there to winning. We keep working, keep trying to come up with new ideas, new things.
Q: Do you look within for most of those ideas, or outside the company?
Montoya: It is more of looking at what everybody else is doing and learning. Why are they doing this? Why are they doing that? At the same time, it’s about what we do, too. How can we make ourselves better? We are doing that every week, too.
Q: How important is it for you to get away from racing once in a while, like you did during the rare off week last week?
Montoya: I think the down time is as important as the [race] weekends. Every weekend, whether the last one was good or bad, you’ve got to be able to have your head clear and come to the next weekend with a completely open mind. And in a way it’s cool that we had a break. But on the other side of that, we have a lot of momentum in the team and don’t want to break that.
Q: So what did you do last week?
Montoya: We went to Aruba and did a lot of wind surfing.
Q: Wind surfing, eh?
Montoya: [Wife] Connie and I try to wind surf as much as we can. We just spent the last week in Aruba on vacation. We got out into the water a lot. The water was perfect for wind surfing. We had a great time.
Q: So you’re pretty serious about this wind surfing stuff?
Montoya: When we go wind surfing in Miami, we take a van to hold all of our equipment. It’s kind of funny because when we pull it up on the beach and start to unload, people think we’re renting out the equipment. I guess that means we have too much stuff.
Q: How did you first get into the wind surfing scene?
Montoya: My engine guy in Formula One used to do wind surfing. In Australia, my second year there [for the F1 race], he invited me and we got some gear there and went out — and I really liked it. I bought some gear of my own in Miami. I used to do it every time I went to Miami, so it was twice a year. In Europe, the water was way too cold. So I never got in the water there.
Living in Miami, it’s ideal. The wind is [good] over the winter and in the summer it is absolutely dead and it sucks. It’s horrible. I’m bored out of my mind then.
Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com
July 22, 2009