JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 LYSOL IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Lowe’s Motor Speedway and discussed how he has done in the Chase so far; team strategy before and during the Chase; his relationship with his crew chief and other topics.
TALK ABOUT HOW THE CHASE HAS GONE FOR YOU SO FAR: «Well, I can’t complain. The first four races have been pretty good. Shame we still haven’t won a race, we have been running pretty good. Same story as always. What is going to happen here (Lowe’s Motor Speedway), I have no idea. We think we brought our best car, we hope it is good enough and we get a good setup and see what happens. I think overall it is nice to see how good everybody on the team is working and how hard they are working and how everything is coming out. From that point of view, I can’t really complain too much.»
NOW THAT INCIDENT WITH DENNY HAMLIN HAS MOVED ON, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT HE MIGHT HAVE BEEN DOING THERE? «I think he just went to block and when we went to block, he was too late. It was just a simple mistake. I was being pushed by the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) so I couldn’t move. It is either him or me, I had no choice.»
WAS HE TRYING TO GET THE POINTS FOR LEADING A LAP? «I know he had led a lap before that so I don’t know what he was trying to do. So I don’t know.»
DID YOU HEAR WHAT HE SAID? «I heard he said he just made a mistake. From my point of view, honestly, he restarted and came down and didn’t know I was there. That was it.»
HOW MUCH OF THE IMPROVEMENT THIS SEASON HAS BEEN YOU AND HOW MUCH IS THE TEAM? «I still feel like I don’t them (the cars) completely. I still feel there is a lot I need to improve. We are getting better. We understand the car better. I think during the race, I still feel like I need to do a better job in the race understanding what the car needs to be done to make it better. I think the whole team…our motors are really good. Our chassis are really good. We seem to be good every week. The team is doing a very good job at home bringing a great car and a great setup. And, it can change this week, but so far every week of the Chase especially, we come off the truck and we are just fast and it great when you see that.»
DO YOU THINK YOU CAN WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP WITHOUT WINNING A RACE AND IF YOU DID WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP WITHOUT WINNING A RACE, WOULD YOU TAKE ANY LESS PRIDE IN THAT? «Oh no! It is points, isn’t it? At the end of the day? It is not like I am not trying to win a race or the championship, I am trying to win both. There are still six races this year. We have had four top-fives in the last four races, that is very good and we have had pretty good cars. I felt like in New Hampshire we had the fastest car, the other races, we had good cars, but people had us covered. It is ok. It is what it is. Thinking about ‘oh my gosh, if I win this without winning a race, what am I going to say.’ If I win the championship, I still won the championship. We are still a long way away. In my opinion, mentally, I don’t even think about it right now. I just go every week and run as hard as I can and see what it brings us.»
DO YOU THINK IT IS POSSIBLE OF YOUR EARLIER STRATEGY TO GET IN THE CHASE; YOU DIDN’T REALLY KNOW HOW STRONG YOU HAD GOTTEN? «To be honest with you, you look before the Chase; we were running second at Bristol when I had a flat tire. We finished third in Atlanta. There are races that, apart from Richmond, we were out there. We were a top-five car and we finished sixth or seventh. We did a lot of that. We improved a little bit. Where that came from, I don’t know. I think I went a little more aggressive with my driving and understanding a little bit more the car and it is paying off. My relationship with Brian (Pattie, crew chief) is really good and it helps. We have got to a point now; it always takes time when you have a new crew chief. Right now it is starting to click so it is good.»
TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FELIX SABATES: «With Felix, we have a very good relationship, us both being Latinos. I asked him for help last night with the Jail and Bail cause and it is a great cause and being able to help a cause here in NASCAR, it is big. Everybody really supports everything you do to help people and the support they give what you believe in and support is great. Felix is Felix, I guess. (LAUGHS).
TALK ABOUT YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT RESTRICTOR PLATE RACING AND RACING AT TALLADEGA: «For a fan, it doesn’t get much better than that. I get a kick out of it. I always get a kick out of it. If we are still in the hunt by the time Talladega comes, it is going to be a stressful race. It is like the same thing every week. You go there, especially there, are you going to save then engines. You come off the truck with whatever you think is fastest. And if it doesn’t do anything crazy, you park the car. You probably do 10 laps of practice; make sure all the temperatures look good. Qualify the car and race it and see what happens. It will interesting to see what kind of strategy you play during the race because there is always two ways of looking at it. Do you need points and you want to try and lead as many laps? Or do play conservative and play it at the end? It is always a challenge especially with the side-by-side restarts; it is going to be «whew», pretty wild. I think it is going to be cool.»
ONE OF THE THINGS FELIX SAID DURING THE DISCUSSION IS THAT HE THINKS IF YOU WERE IN A HENDRICK CAR, HE THINKS YOU WOULD HAVE WON FIVE OR SIX RACES THIS YEAR, DO YOU AGREE WITH HIM? «Right now you look at it, it is two Hendrick cars, myself and then two more Hendrick cars, or one is Stewart, sorry, not a Hendrick car. (LAUGHS) Right now they are dominating the sport and to be in the mix of things with them, it is great. Being in a Hendrick car doesn’t mean you are going to win. You look at Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.), he has won a lot of races before and he’s in a Hendrick car and he is struggling. I don’t know if it is the way he drives the car is very different or something. But I am sure with time; he will be fine once he settles. He spent a lot of time with the same guy and now it is different and it cost him a little bit of time. He will be fine.»
DO YOU EVER ALLOW YOURSELF TO THINK ABOUT IT THE WHAT IF YOU HAD ONE OF THOSE CARS? «Right now we have a Target car and a Chevy car and it is great. I can’t complain. I was happy last year when I was finishing 15th and right now we finished third and I am pissed off.»
YOU GET PISSED OFF ON THE RADIO DURING THE RACE: «I don’t anymore! (LAUGHS)
BRIAN STAYS VERY CALM: «Does he? On the radio he does.» (LAUGHS)
TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH BRIAN: «We have a very good relationship and it very open. We understand each other; we all have good days and bad days. He plays it really cool with me, but I know as soon as he comes off the button (on the radio) he is shouting at Billy (Curwood, team engineer) who is sitting there beside him. Billy gets all the shouting from Brian and Brian gets all of it from me. He tells me sometimes ‘you should shout and then press the button. I said ‘then, what is the point’. He doesn’t shout at me. Where was it? The car was horrible; I don’t know what we did in Kansas at that last run when we started going backwards before the last pit stop. I am going on and on about how great the car the was and he said ‘that is why you get paid the big bucks to drive it.’ I said ‘ok’. I just started laughing actually, when that came on the radio. It was kind of funny.»
LOOKING AT THE STANDINGS, DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT IS YOU AGAINST HENDRICK? «It can change really fast. After this week, it could be Hendrick against Hendrick. I don’t think about it. We run as good as we can. We are bringing the best cars every week and making sure we don’t leave anything on the table, whether it is qualifying or practice, you are still going to make mistakes. But hopefully you make the least mistakes. Something that has been very impressive this year is how the pit crew has really stepped up their game and everyone at the shop. The detailing on the car has gone a lot better. Everybody is motivated on the team. It is great to see.»