An Interview With:
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA — 11th in points, made the Chase cut
KERRY THARP: We are joined by Juan Pablo Montoya, who drives the number 42 Target Chevrolet. This is his first time in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Your thoughts about how it has unfolded and the opportunity now to contends for the championship.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It’s weird. We work all year for this and today we run pretty conservative, pits were pretty slow but we did what we had do to get in. It’s kind of weird, because I should be really pumped up and excited and right now I’m just thinking about, we need to run better every week.
We are pretty close. We have been pretty good every week. So, I don’t know. We’ll see. I think three races into the Chase, you’ll know where you are and see what happens.
Q: How do you look at New Hampshire, as the first race in the Chase, and do you like it?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I wouldn’t mind if it was a mile-and-a-half. I run pretty good on mile-and-a-halves. This year in the first New Hampshire race, we run like six or seven when the rain came.
I don’t know, we should run good there. We have a new car for there. Hopefully runs a little better than before. So, we’ll see.
Q: Your crew chief had such a plan for the first 26, and all his focus was on the first 26, getting you in. Number one, does he have a plan for the final ten, did he think that far ahead? Number two, the plan was to be consistent and smart and sort of Top-10 your way into the Chase. Can you Top-10 your way into a title?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: We might. You know, the 48 is not running as strong as it was. I think right now, it’s anybody’s game.
I think you’ve got to finish every race. I think a bad result is going to be a tenth place if you want to win the championship and a good result is going to be like the last couple of weeks for us that we’ve been fighting for wins. That’s the only way to do it.
Q: Your plan?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: My plan? The initial plan is to do the same thing we are doing, maybe a little more aggressive on changes. Like we had a good car but fell way behind on the changes. Tried one side, go back and changed it and that didn’t work there so we just kept falling back but that’s okay.
Q: You’ve had some great success earlier in your career in other forms of motorsports. Does this rank with that or do you feel that you’re not quite there yet? You’ve still got ten races to really make it there.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It’s like everything, one-on-one, the big races; great, we won or great we made it, but right now it doesn’t matter.
We made it, we were good enough to be there and we showed everybody we had the potential. At this point I think we have got a car fast enough to go far. We’ll see. You know, we’ll see.
Q: You have won car titles, you challenged for Formula 1 World Championships; does it give you any satisfaction that now you are in the thick of it for a NASCAR title?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: You know, when I came here, at least myself, you can’t come here thinking you are going to run like crap. You know, you can’t. You know, if I came here thinking I’m going to run 20th every week, I shouldn’t even think about making the move.
You know, I came here thinking I can win and I knew where the team was when we got here, and between Brian, myself and everybody back in the shop, we worked really hard with Chip and everybody to make sure we raised our game. We have done what we had to to prove people wrong and I think we have.
I think when the merger happened at the beginning of the year, I don’t think anybody expected us to be as competitive as we are. So it’s nice to see.
Q: We were talking to Chip and finally he was like, people can get off my back; could you just talk a little bit about how this really rounds out his whole thing, too, to be able to go for this championship?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I don’t know, you know, I think that his IndyCar team, some years they win, some years they don’t. Some years they win races and they dominate and they are right there with Penske every year. For him to come here, I know at the beginning when he came in, he was pretty strong and then he went away; I think it’s nice. I think for me to have Target here and being back with Target, to put Target in the Chase was huge. It’s nice. It’s what we needed.
Q: When you came into NASCAR, you seemed to have an aggressive style but it worked for you and it seemed like you fine-tuned your style and your patience and you still have the aggressiveness. What happened during your time here as far as to improve and fine-tune your style?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think I learned that actually in Formula 1, that you have to be aggressive when you have to be aggressive and you have to be smart when you’ve got to be smart. When it’s restart and it’s time to go, you have to go and when it’s time to save the car, you have to save the car. Saving the car and the brakes and the tires
, I’m not used to that. I was like flat shot all the time and here, you have to look — a lot of people are giving you advice, don’t use the car so hard; try to go at fast as you can without abusing the car. There’s weeks where it really clicks and you wonder, why am I passing people so easy and I’m not even trying here. But if you try, you probably run slower and kill the tires. It’s really weird. It’s a really fine balance between being really good and really balance.
KERRY THARP: Juan, my final question to you, for the Hispanic media and fans, if you could talk about your excitement about being in the Chase. (Laughter) Thank you, Juan. Congratulations.