NASCAR Nextel Cup Series: Ford 400
Topics: Ford 400
Juan Pablo Montoya
November 18, 2007
THE MODERATOR: First of all, we have our 2007 the Rookie of the Year, and that is the driver of the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge, Juan Pablo Montoya.
I'm told that is the fourth best Rookie of the Year that has driven for the Havoline Dodge. Congratulations Juan Pablo. We also have tonight's third place finisher, Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Express Chevrolet. Another outstanding season for you. Your second season in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
I'll start with Juan Pablo. Your rookie season at the Cup level, your thoughts?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think it went pretty good. You know, it's a bit of everything, you know. Off and on, I think that everybody at Ganassi did an amazing job. It's one of those deals, you know, I think it was more ours to lose than win. So I think came out pretty good.
I think more important, we had a race win. And I think, you know, for record books and stuff, it's pretty good that I won the ray best rookie of the year, I guess.
THE MODERATOR: Third place finish tonight, you had a few wins this season. Your thoughts about your season this year?
DENNY HAMLIN: It was good up until the Chase started, for sure. We were right there, second or third in points most of the year. And, you know, we just failed to get the job done when it counted. Both driver and, you know, just it didn'tâ ââ things didn't work out in our favor when it came down to the last 10.
It was nothing to do with performance. On the racetrack, things were really good. It just seemed like with a few laps to go with every race, we found ourselves in trouble, so...
It's a good accomplishment. We made the Chase both years that we tried. And now this is yet another good finish for us to build on for Daytona.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined in here tonight by our runnerâup in tonight's race, finished 7th in the points battle this year and that is Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge.
Kurt, an outstanding season, your thoughts?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, we felt like this was a successful season for us with Penske Racing and Miller Lite Dodge was definitely what we needed at some of the races.
Then at some of the other racetracks where we've led laps, we just didn't seal the deal to finish off the race.
So tonight was a great feather in the cap for our team. A great team work that it took to put a strong summer stretch together to get into the Chase was fantastic.
So everybody at Miller was ecstatic, and we've put together a good effort during the Chase. We can be stronger. And we need to work on our C.O.T. program if we want to compete for next year's championship. That is the bottom line.
We've got a little taste of it this year, and the teams that ran well with their C.O.T. finished up front in the points. So next season that's what Penske Racing will be all about.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, these guys have been patient. We're going to take just a few questions.
Q. I guess seeing what Jimmie did this year change the sort of thinking about the Chase, the whole idea that you can't make mistakes? Or was this just one of those times where it was an aberration and nobody's ever going to do that kind of thing again, win four in a row, do you think?
DENNY HAMLIN: This year, Hendrick Motorsports came out of the Chase stronger than anybody. And the way they came out of the Chase to win that many races, if you consider it, it's something that usually doesn't happen that that often.
I don't think the philosophy needs to change as far as you approach the Chase. He just put together that strong of a run, and there is nothing you can do about it. It wasn't a boring Chase, it wasn't a blowout. But to see a guy win ten races in one season, I thought that era was over.
So Jimmie should be congratulated. That team and the way they performed, they put together a stretch run that will probably never be matched.
Q. Juan Pablo, I'm assuming you've been a rookie in another series before. Can you compare being a rookie in the Cup to being a rookie in another series? And Kurt, if I'm not mistaken, you finished tenth in the points today?
THE MODERATOR: No, Kurt is seventh.
Q. Okay, somebody sent me something and told me to ask about that. Can you talk about going to New York, even though you're not the champion, what that means?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, I've been the rookie before in a lot of series. But being a rookie with the experience I had, is very different. I had no stock car experience, but from my Open Wheel background, you know, I've raced about everything you can race in.
So I don't know, I think it's pretty cool. I think it's good for the team. It's something to cheer about with the team. I think more important is how the performance of the team came up through the whole year. Where we started and where we finished was a big difference.
KURT BUSCH: Just to follow up with your question, to make the Chase this year and to head back up to New York before Newâ Hampshire that made me realize how bad I missed it the year before not making the Chase.
NASCAR spoils you and takes care of you, and lets you know you've achieved something special. So to be able to go on stage in New York and represent Dodge, and represent Miller Lite and all of our associate sponsors, it is a big celebration.
Lot of sponsors think just making the Chase now is a successful season, but we want a bit more. So this will give us an opportunity to talk about it, and jump into 2008.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go to the questions upstairs.
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I hadn't had any success the last few weeks. So I figured I'd go back to late model to see if I could win a race. So things just a little bit of wanting to get back to see some old friends that I used to race with.
Since I got the next week off, I ain't got to go to the banquet anyway, I guess, I'll go racing.
Q. (Indiscernible). How do you compare the stock cars to something like motorcycles or drag racing? How hard is it to go to stock cars or any kind of race car at all?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think it's very different going from four wheel wheels to two wheels. The biggest thing is I had only ten races in ovals before I came to NASCAR. The two years that I did in IndyCars.
And, you know, coming here, getting back to the ovals, getting into a big car, big horsepower, very little grip, it's a handful. It's really a handful.
In Open Wheel when you're good, you've got a lot of grit, when you're good, can you do that for about ten laps, so it keeps you busy.
Q. On the final restart, did you think you had anything the matter or was this car just too dominant today?
KURT BUSCH: I felt like we had a legitimate shot at chasing Matt down. I had to pass the 1 car, first of all. Once we cleared him, it just seemed that Matt and I had a chain mounted with his rear bumper and my front bumper. I couldn't break the advantage he had. Not due to aero, but just due to the fact that he was fast. And the way the race went all day.
He was the car to beat, we were the challenger, and we just came up a bit short. I thought we were going to give it our all, and we came up in second place. But to bump up in points, that was the bigger objective today, and we were able to do that.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thanks a lot. Good season all the way around.
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