NASCAR Media Conference
Juan Pablo Montoya
September 22, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Thank you and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference. We are in advance of the second race in the 2009 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. That second race comes up Sunday, the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway. Our special guest today, Juan Pablo Monday toy I can't. He drives the number 42 Target Chevrolet, comes off a great opening week in the Chase. Juan started the Chase 11th in the standings, so he goes ahead and finishes third this past weekend at New Hampshire and jumps up to fourth in the standings going into Dover.
Juan, huge jump after just one week, all of the sudden you're right in the thick of the Championship hunt. What does that do for you and your team's confidence going into the rest of the Chase?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Well to tell you the truth, I think the whole team is doing a really good job this year. The first Race to the Chase, of course, you're going to jump one way to another depending how you run. We had a very good day and we gained a lot of grounds. At the same time, I think the leader is the only person that really counts right now. He actually lost 15 points if you really look at it, you know what I mean.
Q. The question I want to start with is obviously great finish for you guys and your crew chief was ecstatic. He said, "My driver has another gear for the Chase. I even saw that tonight." Can you talk about his thoughts, that you have another gear for it yet, and also if you thought more about the deal with Mark Martin and whether you had a chance to chat with him.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No, I haven't , first off, I haven't really talked to Mark at all. I think did he an awesome race and he did what he had to do to win the race. I wasn't the happiest guy. I did some interviews this morning and I said that. It's fun when you do it to someone else but it's not when they do it to you but it's part of it. For the Chase, you know, we have to bring our A Game, and we did. There's no holding back, nothing, we have to go. We have to try to go every week. Some weeks are going to be better than others but time to go.
Q. And do you have another gear? Are you adding more than what you had? He was just totally impressed with you, your crew chief.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: That's good to know. I've been very impressed with not only him but everybody on the team. When they give you such good equipment, you have to bring your A Game, you know what I mean. With the kind of cars he's given me, we can't just go out there and just ride, you know, you can't. So we are doing what we can. We are doing the best we can and trying to drive the car as hot as I can and I don't want to leave anything on the table.
Q. Regarding the performance of Chip Ganassi Racing as a whole, you've been with the team for three years now, and this year they are finally in the Chase. What has happened? Has it been your driving or the equipment, all of the above?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It's all of the above. You know, my relationship with Brian has gotten a lot better, so we understand a lot better each other. When I mention something to him, he understands better what I want out of the car, and likewise, you know, when he makes changes, I'm a lot more comfortable when he makes changes now than I did before, and all that contributes.
You know, everybody I think in our shop are building better race cars, lighter race cars. You see every time, they keep find are more power and bringing better engines, just the whole pack age seems to be working really well right now.
Q. Obviously when you came to NASCAR, you had a ton of experience as a driver. But in the time that followed, what did you learn about how long or is the learning curve to contend for a title, a championship? What do you have to learn to do that?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I don't even know if we are ready yet. We are doing the best we can and hopefully we are going to be good enough to at least fight for it. We don't have the experience yet or anything. It's our first Chase, and we just want to make sure we don't leave anything on the table. By the time Miami comes, we want to make sure, you know, we gave our best to make sure we gave ourselves a chance. That's all we can do.
Q. Talking about when you have great equipment, you have to get the most out of it, but could you have imagined that you could have this great of equipment? The company had to merge, because the resources were down and you had to let go of people.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think when we merged, we didn't merge because we were in need of merging. We merged because we thought it would make us a better race team. I think it was our benefit and it was their benefit. And if you look at our performance, it went up.
So when we did the merge, it's not, oh, we need to merge or we are going to be out of business. We need to merge to make ourselves better. And I always believe in Chip. I know a lot of you guys don't because you've seen Chip a long time here. The only reason Chip hired me to come and do this is because he believed I could do the job. At the same time I didn't come to NASCAR thinking, you know, I just want to have fun and relax myself. I do want to have fun and relax myself but when it's time to go, time to go.
Q. And also do you think what's happened here, Chip has held things together and put you in this position, and it's kind of vindicated him for the criticism he took for not being in contention the last two or three years?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: We are. Last year was a tough year for Chip. We lost a lot of sponsors. He couldn't run the 40 car and the 41, we decided to go with it as well, because they are going to move to the Target cars. So there was a lot of changes in the team that were not positive. And so we went through three crew chiefs in a year and that's not easy. It's not easy at all. To bounce from that, to where we are, it's been incredible. But I always have faith in Chip. I never thought Chip was going to leave or anything.
Q. You have plenty of stress and pressure in every race, is maintaining a mental toughness, is it harder for your team during the Chase?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No, not really. Right now, it's fun. You know, it was more straightforward trying to make the Chase than what we are doing right now to tell you the truth. The position we are in in points, it wasn't that comfortable. I think for teams like the 48, 24, all of the good Hendrick cars or the cars Hendricks' are running up there in the Chase, for them, it was a different story. For them it's preparing themselves for the Chase.
For us it was making the Chase, getting to the Chase. There were companies that were going to be in and we were doing all that was possible to make it in. So the approach was very different. For us, our goal this year was making the Chase and we did so. Anything that happens from now to the end of the year, it's a bonus.
Q. Do you prepare differently now that you are in it?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Not really. We just take a little more chances and go for it a little harder.
Q. Let's take a look at the next three tracks, Dover, Kansas and then California. What are your feelings about those tracks do you have a better feeling concerning one or all of them?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think our car so far seems to run good everywhere, so I couldn't come and tell you, we are not going to run good here or there. We are bringing our best equipment every week and we are hoping that's good enough.
You know, I'm sure there's going to be a week where it's not going to be fast enough, and I think everybody is going to go through that. And then when that happens, you've just got to see how good you go and how far off you're going to be, you know what I mean. You can't hope to try to win a championship and run 20th, you know what I mean. It might happen and you might get a lock in if you don't wreck in Talladega. But you know what I mean, at the end of the day, how good, our mile-and-a-half cars are really good, and all of the fast racetracks, our cars are normally even better. So it's hard to say, this is right and that's wrong. We just take it as it comes.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Juan Pablo, best of luck at Dover and best of luck the rest of the Chase.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Thank you very much.
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