NASCAR Media Conference
Juan Pablo Montoya
April 21, 2009
HERB BRANHAM: Welcome to today's teleconference. We really have a special lineup as we look ahead to this weekend's events in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. Our first guest today, Juan Pablo Montoya. He will drive the No. 42 Tums Dual Action Chevrolet on Sunday at the Aaron's 499 at Talladega. Later on we will be joined by Grand-Am drivers Scott Pruett and Darren Law.
Juan-Pablo comes into Talladega 15th in the series standings. Juan, you had a great run at Talladega last year in the spring, finishing second in the Aaron's 499. Really an outstanding day. What's the confidence level for you and your team coming back to Talladega this year after that great effort?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Well, I got to tell you, I think everybody at Earnhardt Ganassi this year has done an amazing job. I think I screwed up last week. We had a good car. Easy a top 10 car. I just went a little bit too fast in the pits. Just my fault.
But as you said, Talladega has always been a great racetrack for me. We always run well there. And I think this year, you know, with the Chevy power and everything that's going on with the team, it's been great. I think look, Truex qualified on pole in the 500. Everything is in place to run strong. I think qualifying doesn't really mean much there. But if you look at the future, we're looking really good.
HERB BRANHAM: We'll go to the media now for questions for our guest Juan Pablo Montoya.
Q. I want to ask you about how your season has been so far. You have eight races down with the Earnhardt Ganassi merger. What, if anything, have you seen improve? What do you look forward to as the races continue on?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Well, I think if you look at overall our performance has been really good. You know, you look, myself, I had five bad races. This week was bad race for us because I screw up in the pits. I think Vegas and Atlanta were bad races for us. And even like that, we're 15th in the points. We're not that far off the Chase. I think we're in a position that we can challenge for the Chase.
I think consistency's going to be the key to be able to make that, and we know that. I think if you look, there's a lot of things that have been talked about in the team, in the media, talking about you end up going to the same car, both teams. I think Phoenix was the first step towards getting everybody on the same page. It really helped. Truex was competitive. I was competitive. It's exciting. I think the future of the company looks really, really bright and it's positive.
Q. If you can work your way up into the top 12 in one of those Chase-contending positions, do you think it will be easier to stay there than to get there?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think we're in a position we can run really good. I think if you look at teams like the 16 is not running that well. I think some of the Childress cars are running okay. I think we can be strong enough to put ourselves in a position to be in the Chase. There's a lot of cars. You have four Hendrick cars, or nearly six if you count the two Stewart cars. You're going to have four Roush cars. You're going to have three Gibbs cars. You know what I mean? There's four RCR cars. To actually get into the Chase is really hard. Realistically, I think we have the pace to make it.
Q. You already spoke about what happened in the past at Talladega. You were probably the happiest you've ever been with your car at Daytona back in February. With that in mind, do you see Sunday's race as your biggest chance ever to score your first victory in an oval?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Oh, I think this year, anywhere it's going to come. I think before we either waited for a restrictor plate or maybe a mile-and-a-half we were going to run really well. The way things are running and the way we're running, I think it can come anywhere, to tell you the truth. I think our pace is good enough to start winning races anywhere.
We're in the right path. We're very close. And, yes, you know, in a way one of our strongest weekends, yes, is Talladega. But Talladega is so much out your hands, it's so hard to say, yes, this is where we're going to go and win. You can't hope it's going to happen. You look at last year, we were leading. The outside lane went past us on the backstretch. They all wrecked and took us. If you survive the wreck, then you might have a chance, but you got to survive the wreck first.
Q. Having run already almost every kind of track besides the road courses, where do you feel you're still probably lacking? Is there any kind of track where you feel you still have to move up?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I don't know. Normally our weakest tracks are the short tracks. But we showed pretty decent pace in Phoenix. And I think we're doing a lot of testing to make ourself more competitive. And I think, you know, I don't know, I think it depends on the time. You know, some weeks you're going to be better in one track, some weeks you're going to be better in another. That's part of what it is. I think timing is everything.
Q. With all your wins in open-wheel and NASCAR now, too, you must have a pretty big trophy room. Do your trophies get invisible after a while or do they help you compete now?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Oh, they're completely invisible. The win is what matters. A trophy for me is not a big deal. I'll tell you, it's the drive to beat everybody, to make sure we're better than anybody out there. And that's what we're doing. I think between Brian, Patty, everybody in Earnhardt Ganassi, that's what we're doing. We're making sure and we're working harder than anybody else to make sure the car to beat is going to be us, not anybody else.
Q. You mentioned the desire, the fire in the belly. Do you think that racers have to ignite it or does that burn constantly for you still?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: For me it just burns, you know. It sucks when you run bad. You know, I think it's funny, actually the better you run, the more frustrating it gets because you know it's getting closer.
Q. Have you had any trouble with these new lug nuts? If not, does that thing scare the pants off of you, something out of your control basically?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think if you really think about it, it should be safer. The lug nut being longer, you have more thread. If the tire is loose, it's going to take longer to come off. In my opinion, yeah, it's harder for the pit crew. Once your pit crew adapts to it, I think from the driver point of view, it's safer.
Q. You haven't had an incident with the lug nut where you've lost positions because they had a lug nut malfunction or whatever?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: They don't malfunction. It's just you got to understand the threads are longer. I had a problem before. When they throw the wheels onto the hub, where the tire goes in, some of the lug nuts being longer, it's just going to throw the knot off. You know, hey, it's practice, practice, practice.
Q. Are you satisfied with how your pit crew has performed this season?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: To tell you the truth, honestly at the beginning of the year it wasn't great. But we made a little bit of changes and they're working better. And they knew they had to step it up and they have, and their performance has been getting better.
Q. On the last lap Sunday at Talladega, which position would you prefer to be in? Would you rather be in the lead on that lap in case the caution comes out and the field is frozen or would you rather be second, third, fourth, fifth, be able to get a run on the leader?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I would think leading would be the best for me, you know, because worst-case scenario, if there's a wreck, you got the win in the pocket. Worst-case scenario, you're going to finish second or third. You know what I mean? If you're third or fourth, you can be involved in the wreck. So I think for coming out of Talladega with a good result, if you leading in the last lap, not a chance of winning, not as high as you running second, but you can still could it.
Q. How long is your contract for that you're currently under? Do you miss Formula One at all?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: My contract is still a couple years, two, three, four, five, I don't know. I'm not going to tell you actually how long is my contract (laughter). But I don't miss Formula One at all.
Q. You don't miss it at all?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Oh, no, I'm so happy here, you wouldn't believe it.
Q. Back in February in Daytona you got shuffled back in the order. You probably ran out of time with the rain coming to move up. Are you planning to race any different, be more towards the front this time?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It's so hard. Sometimes you want to run up front and just nobody works with you and you can't be up front. I think if you want to do something like for me, Talladega has been a place if you want to make something happen, you have to do it yourself, to tell you the truth. That's the way it always works for me.
Q. Last week Dario Franchitti won in IndyCars. He was racing a year ago with you in NASCAR. Do you ever think what would it be like if you got back to IndyCar or something like that?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No, not really. I'm happy doing what I'm doing. I'm getting really good at it I think and I don't see a reason to change. I've been here for two and a half years and it's been a hard transition. The car has been that easy to drive. I finally got comfortable in them, and I think my pace is very good. So I don't see a reason why to leave.
Q. After winning the Rolex, what is it going to be like coming for July and running the shorter race?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Which shorter race?
Q. The 250.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: As far as I'm aware, I'm not doing it. Somebody mentioned that some NASCAR guys were going to do it. As far as I'm aware today, I'm not doing it.
Q. We have to get your PR people to talk to you.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, I didn't know about it.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you. First of all, thanks, Juan Pablo. Best of luck this weekend at Talladega and the rest of the season.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Thank you.
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