JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET IMPALA met with media and discussed winning the Indy 500 and Monaco, his expectations for Sunday’s race, the season outlook, and more.
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK HEADING INTO SUNDAY’S DAYTONA 500?
«I think we’ve got a good car. You have to be smart. In the Shootout I pushed (Greg) Biffle really hard and damaged the front of the car. I went too hard. So yesterday you have to be like self conscious about what you did and how far you went. Our main goal really was trying to get to the 500 with the same car we practiced and qualified with. That was our goal and we did it. We got a decent starting spot (row 4) and it’s such a long race that it doesn’t really matter where you start. The big this is that we’ve got a good car and that goes a long way.»
WHAT STYLE OF RACING DO YOU EXPECT ON SUNDAY?
«I wouldn’t be surprised that we will have more than one green-white-checkered (laughter). Honestly. People are racing really clean but you’re pushing and you know, yesterday was only half a field. And it was out of control. It was good, but it was out of control. I think it’s going to be interesting because you’re going to have a lot of the good cars up front because the way the tires wear and everything at the end they’re going to be a handful. But yeah, it makes it interesting.»
IS THAT BECAUSE OF THE RULES OR BECAUSE SOME DRIVERS ARE MAYBE GETTING CRAZY?
«The rules are a little more relaxed, so you don’t have to worry about oh, you know, you never know how they are going to react when you push people too much yourself. So that’s better. And I think with the new restrictor makes racing a lot better. You get more of a run. You always get more of a chance, but more of a chance is more of a wreck.»
YOU RESISTED IT AT FIRST, BUT HOW IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH BRIAN PATTIE COMING ALONG?
«Oh, it’s been great. I knew Brian would be a really cool guy and a really smart guy. But when you’re working with something you believe what you’ve got is the best, or at least they gave you the best. And when they change it, you don’t like it. When I had Wingo, I knew I had a really good crew chief, but they told me it was for the benefit of the whole team to try to make sure the whole team worked better and I agreed to it because I thought it was probably as good. And when that happened, it disrupts everything. Consistency is a big thing here and making sure people understand you. You don’t have telemetry or anything and you can’t really show them that this is my problem. So they’ve got to really rely on what you say and understand what you’re saying. It works pretty good.»
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT DRIVING THROUGH TURNS 3 AND 4 AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SINGLE CAR RUNS AND WHEN YOU’RE IN THE BIG PACKS?
«Well, the first 50 laps it is fine. Well, probably not 50; let’s say 10 laps. It’s like you can two wide easy. The guy in the middle, it’s a struggle. Yesterday I got dropped in the middle and just had to go to the back. You know, it’s a qualifying race and of course you want to have a good finish, but if you don’t you still have the same car. So I was pretty cautious about that. When the tires get old and the guy on the bottom most of the time starts getting tight, and when they start getting tight they start running into the other people. That’s the problem. When you run high, then your problem is the wall. You start in coming off the corner and get tight and you’ve got to get off the gas and sometimes even hit the brakes and that’s where the whole line stacks up.»
WITH SEVERAL YEARS OF DOING THIS RACE, HOW DO YOU PUT TOGETHER YOUR AGGRESSIVE ATTITUDE TOWARDS DRIVING, HEY GET OUT OF THE WAY I’M GOING TO THE FRONT AND THIS IS MORE LIKE A CHESS MATCH TYPE OF GAME. DO YOU LIKE THAT?
«I think it’s great, but it’s not like hey, I’m going to the front. They guy next to me is going, hey, I’m going to the front also. It’s hard. When everybody has fresh tires, it’s really hard to make any good moves unless you’re willing to really risk the car. If you’re willing to risk the car and cause a big wreck, then you can make some moves and they might pay off. At the same time, they might not. So you’ve got to be smart about how you do it and who you do it with. When you do it with guys who care about points and they’re thinking about the Chase and stuff, then it’s a lot easier.»
IN BOTH RACES YESTERDAY, GOING INTO TURNS 3 AND 4 IT SEEMED LIKE THE TOP LINE REALLY GOT A GOOD PUSH GOING INTO THE CORNER, BUT IT KIND OF STALLED AS YOU CAME OUT AND COMING THROUGH THE TRI-OVAL. ON THE LAST LAP, IT LOOKED LIKE YOU LOOKED TO THE OUTSIDE OF TONY (STEWART)
«And I realized I’ve got to have this car next week; or on Sunday at least.»
IS IT THE FACT THAT THE TOP LINE IS JUST NOT GETTING ENOUGH OF A PUSH WHEN YOU DUCKED OUT LIKE THAT OR DOES THE TOP LINE STALL?
«Well, I don’t know. We were coming. I could have hit Tony in the tri-oval but most likely I would have wrecked him into the No. 9 car and probably ticked off a lot of people for no reason.»
SO IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN THAT SAME SITUATION AT THE END OF SUNDAY’S RACE, DO YOU WANT TO BE ON THE BOTTOM INSTEAD OF THE TOP?
«Or, you just don’t care. You only have to run another 100 yards, so you’ll probably make it even you’re going the wrong way (laughter).»
HOW MUCH DOES THIS RACE REGISTER IN COLUMBIA? IF YOU WIN IT, WILL THE PEOPLE BACK HOME REALIZE WHAT A BIG DEAL IT IS?
«Probably not. They didn’t when I won Indy and they didn’t when I won Monaco and they probably wouldn’t either. I don’t know. I don’t really care (laughs). I don’t do it for anybody else; I do this for myself. If they appreciate what I do, great. If they don’t, well, I’m having a great time here (laughter). It’s true! Do you think any of these drivers; you know, we want to keep the sponsors proud, we want to keep the owners happy and the fans who really care about it and the people who came here and watched the race care about it, then it’s good. But if somebody doesn’t want to pay attention, it’s their miss, not mine. I can’t do anything about that.»
YOU TALKED ABOUT THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKER. WHAT’S YOUR FEELING ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF THREE OF THEM?
«Well, if you have the fastest car it probably really sucks. Honestly, if you led all day and you have a good car and you had the clear advantage and you have two good re-starts and you mess it up in the last one and you lose the race, you’d be really ticked. And if it happens, you’re going to hear some really annoyed drivers, but probably some pretty happy fans.»
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK ON THE SEASON AFTER THE DAYTONA 500?
«Whatever happens here doesn’t mean anything for the rest of the season. This is a restrictor plate race. We do three (plate races) pre-Chase and one in the Chase. It’s still points it’s still racing but it doesn’t really show the true performance of the cars. If you can cross the line here at the end of the race with the car in one piece, it means you’re probably in the top ten; most likely scenario.»
ARE YOU FOLLOWING U.S. F-1 AND THE RUMORS OF THAT AND THE SOUTH AMERICAN DRIVER THEY’VE SIGNED?
«No. Should I? What’s going on? You tell me. What’s the rumor?»
WELL THE RUMOR IS THAT THEY’RE STRUGGLING «It wouldn’t surprise me if they’re struggling. Any new team right now would be struggling. Everybody is testing. I haven’t heard any of the new cars testing. I’ll tell you the truth, I’m not really following it.»
YOU WON MONACO AND YOU WON INDY. IF YOU WIN THE DAYTONA 500, WHERE WOULD THAT RANK WITH THE OTHER ACCOMPLISHMENTS?
«Well, it would be as high as the other ones. It would be cool to win them all. But right now, I don’t think about it. I didn’t think about it when I won Indy or Monaco. Afterwards, you go, oh wow, I won this. But you ask me today and you’ve got to take it like any other race. You’ve got to make your pit stops and make sure you have a good balance, and keep the car in one piece for when it counts.»
IT SEEMS LIKE JAMIE MCMURRAY HAS STEPPED UP HIS GAME. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WORKING WITH HIM?
«Jamie is a great guy. He’s a guy who really wants to run well. He wants to prove to everybody he can get that job done and I think that’s interesting. When we get to the other tracks, I think there’s going to be a learning process between the crew chief and driver and there’s going to be good weeks and back weeks, but I think overall hopefully the car runs better than they did most of last year. At the end of last year, they had a good car and they were doing a really good job. But the season was a struggle so hopefully they can hit the ground running.»