NASCAR Media Conference
Juan Pablo Montoya
October 27, 2006
TRACEY JUDD: Pleased to have with us Juan Pablo Montoya, the driver of the Number 42 Texaco Havoline Dodge, who will attempt to make his NASCAR debut, as well as his NASCAR Busch Series debut here at Memphis Motor Sports Park tomorrow. Juan, you're first practice out there other than testing, how did it go? Talk about it.
JUAN MONTOYA: It started really good. The Texaco Havoline Dodge started really good. It was a really good car out of the box. As the day went down, we kind of got lost a little bit. It was getting really tight around the corners, had a couple of problems. It's not a major deal, but it's okay. At the end we tried to do a couple of qualifying runs, but I think the truck is just really cold. The second lap, in a way is not enough to actually get up to speed with how far you want to go. That's all part of the learning curve, how far you really need to go and what is too much and all that. Generally, it's okay.
TRACEY JUDD: We have questions for Juan Pablo Montoya.
Q. As long as you drove the Open Wheel cars and drove Formula 1, do you feel you're getting a good feel for the stock cars or it's still kind of new for you?
JUAN MONTOYA: The feel for it, it wasn't a problem from the beginning, getting in and feel comfortable and pushing the car was not a big deal. The big deal is learning how the tires work. Especially, you cannot test with this year's tires. That's really hard. You're testing with a two year set of tires that have been sitting around in a warehouse. That's not the most representative thing of what the car is going to do after 15, 20 laps. I think it's going to be a bit of a shock.
The last race was a bit of a dud. How loose you need to go, what's good, what's bad. I have no references. I complain about some things, but I'm not sure what I'm complaining it's as bad as it feels, so it's all part of what the car is meant to do after 40, 50 laps.
Q. You have come back to the States to go racing in NASCAR. A.J. Amond announced this week that he's leaving Champ Car to go to NASCAR. In the day, Champ Car, IRL, were all one when you raced. Is that series dying because all the big names are coming to NASCAR?
JUAN MONTOYA: Generally speaking, I think the biggest motor sport here in the States is NASCAR, without a doubt. That's the thing, when I made up my decision where to go, this was the place to come. I knew it was going to be a big challenge because I've been doing it all my life, a lot of open wheels. Yes, it was going to be tough, but get, hey, just get in and drive it. At the end of the day, it's a bit heavier and moves around a bit more, but you need to learn what's too much and what's not, and the only way to do it is to make mistakes. And in a way, these cars -- yes, they are big cars and everything, but if you stuff them in the wall, in open-wheel, you change the nose, change the (inaudible) and you have the same car. It's the same here, if you bend a fender, you're done.
Q. Are you excited about your debut tomorrow?
JUAN MONTOYA: Yes, a little bit stressed out that everything has to go right. I know it's all about preparing myself for next year, but I want to do well. It's not like, okay, we have got a top-10 car easily. But I don't want a top-10 car. We're here to do a job, and the job is to win.
I know this is only my first race, but that's got to be the focus, and that's got to be the focus of everybody on the team. All the Texaco Havoline Dodge guys have to be out here to do a job that is winning. Is it going to be easy? No. Is it going to take time? Yes. But we have to keep that in mind. We are here to win. And the only way to try to get there is with that mentality.
I know all this is preparation for next year, but I think we need to get in the mindset with all the guys working around me that we're not joking around here. You know what I mean. But at the same time, you know, I don't want to put too much pressure on myself because it's only my second time in a stock car on a short track. Talladega is a different deal. (Inaudible) is different, as well. So it's not easy.
Q. You mentioned just a little bit about this. Are you getting the handle on the short track? You have never really been on a track this small. Did the laps today help you get a handle and also working through traffic?
JUAN MONTOYA: I think working in traffic is going to be tough. The last race I had a broken fender and I was passing cars left, right, and center. There were only two cars in the last race that I couldn't pass, but I could keep up with them with no fender. If you do that here, you would be a lap down within ten minutes. So that's very tough.
It's learning, you know, how to put the power down, where to go. All that is going to be part of the experience. All the mistakes are going to be done here. And if we do more races this year and more testing, the idea is to try, next year, when we go to a short track, I'll know, okay, I don't want to go here. Do you really want to pass anybody on the outside here or how do you want to come out of the corner, do you want to come out behind them and try to move inside or do you want to break the bumper line through the corner to make sure you're on the inside side of them. I don't know. It's tough.
Q. With your desire to win and your hunger, were you pissed after Iowa when you wrecked?
JUAN MONTOYA: Iowa was the first race. I was pretty calm, I was pretty chill about it. It wasn't a big deal. Here, I want to do well. We tested here. We had a club car here, but even that, (inaudible) in a club car here on old tires and stuff and it felt pretty good. We didn't do any qualify runs or anything.
I got out today, and initially it was a really strange feeling in the Bush car, because it's a little shorter. When you brake, you want to steer initially (inaudible) What's this? After 10, 15 laps, you go into the same rhythm. The thing that's hard is to be patient, learn to let the lap time come to you. Because if you start overdriving the car, you end up going slower. Even today I overdrove the car a little bit. That's very critical. It's very critical to go out there tomorrow and qualify. Yes, I have a car that could be in the top-10, but if I stuff it, I'm not racing.
Q. The other thing is, you say you're not joking, you're here to win. Jeff Gordon said after your Talladega race, that if you're not careful and you do too well, it's going to raise the expectations and people are going to expect so much. How do you balance that out?
JUAN MONTOYA: I think what happened so far has been great. Talladega was easy. (Inaudible.) We did really well, but we finished 23rd. We passed people. We came out of a completely different program and we had to run with cars and that was pretty good.
Here, being realistic, if I get a top-20 out of here, I'll be happy. Yes, we have a top-10 car, but the racing experience and things, I want to do mistakes on everything, but I think the mindset needs to be there, but you need to keep expectations low. I think I need to drive the whole team forward and show them I'm here to do business. You know what I mean. But at the same time, they're behind me knowing that, hey, we're just here to learn, take your time and get built up into it. And so far it's worked really well.
Q. How do you balance -- you said you're feeling a little stressed, yet everyone talks about how much you love to drive. Is this fun or is this stressful?
JUAN MONTOYA: It's fun. It's always fun. Get out there and drive the car and slide the car. The stressful thing is you want to go quicker and you start putting in the power and you slide and you think, Here, comes the wall. The front end of the car is great and you drive into the wall and all those things. You don't want to do that in the race.
If you bail straight out of the corner, by the next corner there are still cars inside of you. And that's what I need to learn, how far to go. It's stressful because I don't want to look like an idiot out there. It's part of the learning process.
Q. The other thing, I still have a hard time getting my mind around the money, a lot more money in Formula 1 than NASCAR?
JUAN MONTOYA: Are you sure?
Q. I think so. This is what I hear. I'm a neophyte. What's the rationale?
JUAN MONTOYA: The rationale is how much you love racing, how much you do it for the money, how much you do it because you love it. You know, the question is yes, maybe there's not a lot more money in it there. I would say it's not a big difference as people think.
Yes, the main salary you hear is bigger, but there is no prize monies, there's no bonuses, there's no merchandise, nothing. What you get is what you get. You know what I mean. And the racing is not as fun or interesting or entertaining as this.
Here, in a way it's great because you can have a dreadful weekend and next week you can have a great weekend or two or three, four bad ones and then you have a good one. But the car is always changing. Some days you do two miles Superspeedway or three miles, whatever it is. And then you do Martinsville, a flat, little race track. And then you go to Homestead, that is like where the heck am I supposed to go. There's like five different race lines and you end up doing the same bloody lap time.
In Open Wheel there's one race line and that's it. Is the car good or bad. It's a little bit like here. Everybody runs to the bottom and whichever car is best is going to run up front. It's that simple.
Yes, of course the driver has a little bit of input into it, but on a small track like this, it's more what the car can do than what you can do.
If you go to a place like Homestead where there's five different race lines, then it's interesting because you need to learn -- you know, for me the race is come out, go to the bottom and come out. Here, it's come out, come in and just stay out. It's crazy. It's just -- part of that is just outrageous.
TRACEY JUDD: Also joined by Brad Parrott, who is crew chief for Juan Pablo this weekend. Brad, a quick comment on how things went for Juan Pablo during his practice session today.
BRAD PARROTT: Well, I wish I had another driver. I don't know. No, really. Really, you know, it was based off of, what, two weeks ago when we came out to Memphis and tested the club car. He got track time here, which was very valuable to us. And we unloaded like you had been here two or three years, the cars. It was okay to start, as Juan got on the track we started getting tighter and tighter, but overall, I give you an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10, first day out.
But on a serious note, he's got a lot to learn, you know. Tomorrow, racing with cars, you know, he raced the one car today, Mike Wallace. And that's what he needed to do today. Mike Wallace was mad about it. I'm sure he was mad about it, because today is not the day to race, but he's got to learn today. He's got to learn in practice to know what he's going to do tomorrow to be better tomorrow.
We talked about Talladega, in the car of tomorrow. He learned in the car of tomorrow on Monday what he wished he would have knew on Friday when he ran the ARCO race. Every day he's going to learn more and more and be at the top of the game.
Q. Terminology is different in NASCAR than open wheel.
JUAN MONTOYA: (Inaudible) I talk their language. It's not a big deal. Because when I raced here before, I knew that language. I had to change my language when I went actually back to Europe. I said, "That car is tight." What do you mean it's tight? It's uncomfortable?
Q. I have to ask, did you guys establish new spotting calls, did you work on it, practice it, make sure everything is clear before the green flag drops?
BRAD PARROTT: No. And the reason I say that is because I have got a 66-year-old dad that I brought out of retirement to come spot for us. Our real spotter is in Atlanta today. I wish he could have come Tab Boyd. But his job is to spot for Casey Mears, and tomorrow he will be here. So tomorrow he learns Tab. We'll talk about it for the first time tomorrow and go from there. The biggest thing is my dad has been around racing for 35 years. What better guy could I bring to Juan than somebody who has been around the sport and seen it all and seen it from the spotter's stand. That's one reason I brought him in today, Just to talk to him after practice, because he knows racing lines. He's won a lot of races in NASCAR, the Nextel Cup. And the more smarter people that we put around him, the better he is going to be.
Q. You've won races on a global scale. You've raced all over the world. Now that you've come to NASCAR that kind of goes out the window and you're just another rookie. Is that kind of hard for you to take, just being a rookie?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, it's funny. The rookie meetings, it's actually funny. You have to look at the fun side. I've been racing for a long time and there are kids out there, I don't know, 18 years old or probably even younger sitting beside me and they're talking about here and there and you don't want to do this. It's funny. It's like when you raced go-carts and your father was telling you what to do.
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