JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET IMPALA SS met with media and discussed making the Chase, future goals, being the lone Hispanic driver in the sport, awareness of the Latin American community, and more.
THE MODERATOR: Juan Pablo Montoya is with us. Final race of the season. Ready to go, ready to wrap it up? A very good year for you, though.
JPM: Yeah, it’s been a great year. You know, I think the Chase, wanted a little more than the way we ran the first few races. But it’s hard when you have three wrecks out of nine races. It’s pretty hard to expect anything better.
You know, we’re hoping to try to take fifth place. Anything can happen, so we’ll see. I don’t think whether you finish fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth in the points, whatever happens, it’s going to make it a good year or bad year. It’s been a great year for us. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been good.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Juan Pablo.
Q. Juan, you mentioned the three wrecks in the nine races. Before that you came out of the gates at the start of the Chase with the top fives, doubling how many you had on the whole season. You were so focused on making the Chase, did you have any idea you could take it to that next level?
JPM: We did took it an extra step. But to be where we need to be, we needed to put it away. We raised our game. Being realistic, you look at the way Jimmie and everybody was running before the Chase, that would have been good enough. But, you know, Jimmie, I don’t know how many races he won in the Chase already, three or four races, whatever, he’s been there every week. It’s pretty impressive. That’s what it takes to win. That’s what it takes to win.
Q. Your goal this year was to make the Chase. Next year, how possible is the championship?
JPM: To be honest with you, my goal next year is to be able to match the performance we had this year. Of course, you want more things. But I think if we can create a stability on the team good enough to be able to repeat our performance, that it wasn’t just a one-year thing, I’ll be more than happy.
Of course, I want to win races and everything, but the way we ran over the past few years against this year, it’s been incredible. We got to be able to match the performance. I think that’s the key thing for the team for the future.
Q. Juan, looking ahead to the 2010 season, you have to feel what you were able to achieve this year gives you even more confidence and more reason to expect bigger things next year?
JPM: It was pretty good. Yeah, I guess more pressure. You know, this year in a way was good because we were the underdogs. I don’t think anybody here would go and say, when we started in Daytona, The 42 car is going to make the Chase, that is going to be a disaster, not make it through the year, this and that. We proved everybody wrong. I think there’s a lot of potential on the team to get better. We got to exploit it.
Q. Statistically you’ve done better this year than you did your first two years combined. Are you that much better of a driver or is the team that much better a team?
JPM: I think it’s the whole thing. I learned to race a little smarter, but speed-wise I don’t think it changed a lot. I think my speed was there. I think the cars are a lot better. I think the communication with Brian is a lot better. I think we have a lot of stability on the team. That really plays into the performance here. Stability and consistency plays a big role.
Q. As your success continues, still being the lone Hispanic driver in the series, I don’t know if it’s pressure, duty, responsibility, or how do you avoid having that thrust upon you? The more success you have, the more people will…
JPM: More people will pay attention to what we do. But I didn’t come to NASCAR — and I said this quite a few times — it’s great that the Latin community pays attention to what I’m doing, internationally they’re paying attention to NASCAR now because a lot of things I’ve done. I didn’t come to NASCAR to create that. I came to NASCAR because I wanted to race in NASCAR. It was a personal thing. It still is.
Q. Is it a pressure thing? No. It’s great that they pay attention. It’s like when I came to NASCAR, I’ll give an example, Colombia, they paid a little bit of attention, the results were not there, people stopped paying attention. Now everybody wants to come here. Everybody wants to watch the races. Everybody talks about it. It is what it is. They always like when we do well.
Q. You’ve come in here every week, repeating the questions in Spanish. How much awareness do you feel you’ve built up in the Latin American community about this sport that wasn’t there before?
JPM: It’s incredible to see. One of the things that you can notice, as I started running well this year, you see Colombian flags in the grandstands. You saw them at the beginning, then they went away. People are paying attention. I have to do a lot of Hispanic media. After this, I’m doing Hispanic media, as well. We’ve been doing that the last few weeks. From my point of view, it’s just a little more work. But it’s great. I think it’s great to see the Latin community paying attention to what we’re doing.
Q. You say you didn’t come to NASCAR to necessarily build that awareness, but you seem to have been okay to play that ambassador role.
JPM: If you can help NASCAR do it, why not? You’re going to help yourself. So, you know, I mean, it’s not a priority. My number one priority is get the job done and run with the car and work for Chip, do what you got to do, like the normal driver thing. Outside of that, you know, in a way what you guys been trying to put like responsibility about it. But, you know, you do what you can. You’re not here for that. You know what I mean? I’m not racing NASCAR to create Hispanic awareness about it, you know. I race NASCAR because I want to kick everybody’s butt.
Q. When you come to Miami, how much different is it than when you go to Bristol or Martinsville as far as fan awareness, them knowing who you are?
JPM: Well, it’s actually a nightmare. It is. It’s so many people. Everybody wants tickets. You know, everybody wants this. Everybody needs this. Everybody is your best friend. It’s what it is. It’s okay. But in the same token, it’s good to have that support and people paying attention. We did that event last night with a couple of Colombian foundations to create awareness. Came out really good. It’s good. It’s great to see.
Q. Any experiences you’ve had down here this week that gives an example of that?
JPM: This week, I flew planes on Tuesday, like what I do mainly every week. I took the guys on the boat, the 42 crew out on the boat on Wednesday, and yesterday did the event. I didn’t really do anything different than we do normally here.
Q. You talked about racing smarter. You’ve been running at the finish at every race this year. How important a factor has that been in your success? Do you see any change in style among drivers? Incidents are down in general this year.
JPM: Not really. You know, it’s kind of crazy ’cause when you run up front, you can run hard. But at the same time you can run a lot smarter when you got good racecars. When you’re running 20th, 25th, you’re always thinking about going a lap down, you can’t give an inch away because the leaders are coming, things like that. When you run the top five, you can ride. You can pace yourself, be smarter. When you do that, you actually run faster. It’s kind of crazy.
Q. When Carl was in here earlier, he said because there’s nothing to lose, last race, what the heck, people will probably be a little more aggressive. I don’t know if you think that is the case or not.
Q. If you can talk about your event last night, successful, a big deal.
JPM: Yeah, I don’t see this race like, What the heck. I think a lot of guys, people that were not in the Chase, could have been the 10 races, What the heck. People outside the points already that can’t win a championship, What the heck as well. It doesn’t matter, you know. It hasn’t really changed the results. You haven’t seen people doing dumb things. I don’t think you’ll see that here.
I think if you come here thinking, What the heck, I can run really hard here, maybe win the race, means you wouldn’t have given enough the other 35 races I think. Wouldn’t you?
The event last night came out really good. Over 700 people show up to it. It was pretty amazing. It was great to see.
Q. Off the track how much has your comfort level contributed to your enjoyment of being in this part of your career?
JPM: It’s nice to be able to run well. It makes life a lot easier. It sucks when you run 25th. Last year most of the year was like finishing 20th, 22nd. When Brian broke the 20, finished 16th, I think it was Chicago or something, we were so excited. Last week we finished eighth, and I was freaking screaming on the radio because we sucked all day.
In a way, it’s great. It’s kind of weird and frustrating that you’re so close to get a win, so close for championships and things, but at the same time, you know, the closer you get you notice how much more work you still got to do to make it happen.
Q. Juan, with your success, your children weren’t around when you were winning all the races early in your career, aren’t they old enough now to appreciate what daddy can do?
JPM: Yeah, it’s kind of cool. My son is actually a huge Kyle Busch fan. I’m not lying. If you go look by my motorhome, I just got an M&M hood that I’m going to put in his room. I have to put a Target one as well. We’re putting one and one.
But it’s incredible. He understands what I do. The girl, not so much. But the boy knows. He’ll tell you who drives a car, what car. Like with Kyle, it’s actually pretty funny. When Kyle drives the Nationwide car, he knows what car it is. When he drives a truck, he knows what car it is. It’s kind of freaky.
THE MODERATOR: Juan Pablo, thank you. Good luck on Sunday. Thanks for visiting with us this year. We appreciate it.
JPM: Thank you.
credit: gm racing