NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Pepsi 500
Topics: Pepsi 500
Juan Pablo Montoya
October 11, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Our third place finisher today has joined us here in the interview room in the garage. That's Juan Pablo Montoya. Tell us about your run today.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: When it was cool, we were really good. We had the fastest car, and I could just had drifted through the corner enough, just pedalled the car through the corner, got really fast.
As it got harder, I got looser, and couldn't get on the gas. We got off the corner. We tried to fix that. And the more we fixed it, the worst it got in the corner. We went in circles for a little bit. In the end it got better, but it was a little late.
I think I had a car good enough to beat the 24. He pinned me down here in the last lap and got me really loose. Just a bunch of momentum. But, hey, it's what it is. We finished third. That is good for the Chase, so we'll just move on.
THE MODERATOR: Sounds good. You are now third place in the points. 58 points out of the lead.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, I was seven.
THE MODERATOR: You are now in third place.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It's incredible. We have four or five in a row and I've been losing points to the leader. It is what it is. I think it's what you said before, you ain't going to make any points on anybody. Everybody that runs good is going to be there. You just got to make sure you don't lose any.
If you make a mistake, I think the 11 made a huge mistake coming down on me. I was surprised. When I saw it, I was like" What is he doing? What is he doing?" And he was fifth in points and took him out of contention.
So I was kind of surprised when he did that. I don't know if the spotter didn't tell him I was there or something. I couldn't do anything. I had the 48 just pushing me all the way. So just trying to avoid something, you end up wrecking yourself. But, you've just got to go to the next one.
I think as I said before, you know, once you pass Talladega, Martinsville and Talladega and you look at the points you say okay, what do we need to do for that? Doesn't matter how many points. We're doing Top 5s every week. We hope to keep doing that. It would be nice if we can get a freaking win soon and we can move on.
THE MODERATOR: A quick wrap up, if you would in Spanish.
Q. Does it not get frustrating though the fact that you have, you would think, four Top 5s to start the Chase, you would be the leader?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No, I had, remember when we started the Chase I was 40 points behind already. So against the five car I should have been like four points. But at the same time we're getting Top 5s, and Top 5s here left and right. You know, we're getting close to our first win. We know it's going to happen. But I think that's why we fall behind in, you know, the Chase.
If you ask me, ask anybody, ask yourself, did you think we were going to be this competitive when the Chase started? No. We just wanted to make the Chase. And we played our strategy to make the Chase.
If I could run this good every week next year, then you can win races, take risks, and it doesn't matter. You know, if you DNF one race, you go out the next one, you get another Top 5 and you keep running. But when you're running 10, 12 every week, you cannot take any chances. You've got to keep finishing, keep that average up.
Q. What I don't understand about this whole run you've put together is where did it come from and were you capable of this with the whole season?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No.
Q. Is this something that you were sand bagging early in the season?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: (Laughing) I wish. If you look before the Chase started we finished third in Atlanta. We ran second in Bristol, and we blew a tire. We should have finished second in Pocono. We should have won Indy. It was a lot of races we were good, and there were other races we went not with our best cars. We were building better cars. Our cars at the time were good enough for what we needed to do.
We're not going to go to Richmond with a brand-new car hoping, and you never know what it's going to do, you know. We tried to bring our best equipment every week. We normally do. It's just everything's clicking. It keeps clicking, you know.
I'm driving the car a lot better. I understand the car a lot better. Just something clicked, you know what I mean? And I figured out a little bit here, a little bit there.
Once things start clicking, you understand. And they tell you -- it's like Jimmie Johnson told me the same thing. This is what I do. And you try it, and you don't get it. Three years, three and a half years down the road you go, oh, I understand what he was saying, and it works.
Q. The contact with the 11, do you feel like that impaired your car at any point?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No, no, no. I think it hit the corner of the bumper. We were going so slow, it's just a slow spin.
Q. I know on the last restart you were pushing or you were behind Jeff on that restart. What do you see out of that 48 car that gets that run in? I know you led a ton of laps today, but he led more laps of the do you feel he was the dominant car by far?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think when it was cooler I had a better car than him. When it warmed up, he had a better car than me. I think I had the second fastest car. At the last pit stop we made a change in the car, and we lost a bunch of ground. It's okay. It's what happens. You're second, third, fourth, it doesn't matter. You gamble to try to win the races.
THE MODERATOR: Second place finisher Jeff Gordon has joined us. He is fifth in the points right now, 105 points on out of first. Your sense of your day today?
JEFF GORDON: I didn't think we were a second place car, so we were pretty happy about finishing second. We had a good pit stop and some good restarts there and were able to get ourselves action into the lead but couldn't maintain it.
My car just didn't work good on the outside, especially early in the runs. So we kind of gave up that lane to the 48. You know, once you give up that lane to him, he was so good up there, you're going to lose the lead. So we did, and we've got to be happy with second, that was a good day for us.
Q. Jimmie said he was actually nervous out there sitting on turn four during the red flag. Thought he might not have enough laps to on pull that out. Curious what each of you were feeling and thinking at that point?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: For me I knew the only way we could do something was making sure the 24 got beside him. But I think, how do you call that? The Speedy Dry.
When I was in turn one I was freaking sideways. It was like I was turned and I was just like trying to hang on to the car. And Jeff was doing the exact same thing. I think the speedy dry hurt us a little bit. But it was fun. He had the fastest car all day.
JEFF GORDON: He chose the inside lane, there was a lot of Speedy Dry up there as Juan Pablo said. Up there in the outside lane I got a perfect restart, and I was right down on the outside of his door. I was hanging right with him, and as soon as we hit that, I slid up and he was able to put the power down a lot better than I was. And I just fell in behind him. I knew at that point we were done.
Q. I was wondering, did you guys see debris during the debris cautions? And if not, how did that disrupt the momentum of the race?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: For me, I never pay attention. Unless they tell me there's a door or freaking bumper in the middle of the road, I just slow down and, you know. I'm sure there -- you know the problem I know sometimes it's frustrating when you're leading and pulling away and they say debris caution. It could be simple. It could be a screw, you know. And where were we? In Bristol I had a flat tire from a washer, you know, with 20 laps to go. What can you do? Nothing. It is what it is. So I don't know.
JEFF GORDON: Well said.
Q. I understand what you're saying about the top 5 still. But let's say you got ten top 5's at Homestead and you don't win. Would that piss you off?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No.
Q. So nothing's going to piss you off?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: If I would have wrecked with the 11 today, I would have said, Well, it happens. It could have happened, and it happened.
We're doing our best. We're enjoying ourselves and we're racing hard. We've got great race cars, you know. There were four or five Hendrick cars and us racing today in the front. So to be able to do that is huge.
Q. So as long as you do what you can do --
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: We're doing the best we can. If it's good enough, it's great. If it's not, well, move on. There is another year.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Juan, good run today.
Q. I know you said you had a great run. You didn't expect that. Is there any frustration that you still lose points to Jimmie Johnson? In terms of the competitiveness of this chase, are we talking about perfection that it's going to take because it seems that every week it's all 12 of you guys pretty much, running up front.
JEFF GORDON: Well, there are still some tracks in there that can change that all in one lap. So, you know, I mean right now all we can do -- kind of like what Juan Pablo was saying -- we can only do our best.
When we get to Homestead or finish out in Homestead, if you're best isn't good enough, then, you know, you work harder over the off-season and see what you can do to improve it for next season.
But right now the only frustration I have is the first two races that we've had, we didn't get the finishes that I felt like we were capable of, especially at New Hampshire. So we're definitely behind.
But we made gains on a lot of guys. Got ourselves in the fifth now. So we're doing what we need to do in my opinion. You know, if it takes a third place average finish over ten races, then, no, we're not going to win it this year. You know, we've already gotten a 15th place finish.
We've just got to keep battling, and keep trying to get wins and Top 5's and the last couple of weeks have gone really well, and I'm proud of those efforts, even though we have finished second.
Q. Similar question. You finish this well, but there's still the points dynamic. Is it bittersweet?
JEFF GORDON: Well, the only thing to me that's bittersweet is that we finished second, and I felt like we were like in a second class category. That's the only thing that bothers me a little bit. We're just not good enough. We're good, but we're not good enough.
We're doing everything we can to be good enough, but it's just not there. So we've got to search and find something. You know, we've got to be better than that. I feel like Charlotte's a good track for us, and I'm looking forward to going there. And hopefully we can make up the ground that we're lacking. Maybe it's just in the set-up. Maybe we've got to look at our cars a little bit more. I mean, it's our teammate, but they're in another category. We saw it at Dover, and we certainly saw it here.
Q. The last 12 chase races going back part way through last season, Jimmie's won five. So nearly half of the last 12. Is that surprising or is that almost expected because you know of his ability, his equipment, and what he has? I mean, obviously, 10% winning percentage among drivers would seem to be fantastic, but he's almost hitting 50% here?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, they have something magical about the final ten races. You know, these ten tracks really suit them. They do an incredible job. What else can you say? They're the best out there. They've won the last three championships. They're going to be hard to beat for this one. Really, unless they make a mistake, I don't see how they lose it.
Q. Do you feel is there a certain tradition points wise? You've had success at Charlotte, you've had success at Martinsville, do you need to be in a certain place going into Talladega?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, Martinsville I would like to get back to our winning ways at Martinsville. I feel like we've definitely gotten beat there the last several times by Jimmie and Denny, you know. And I feel like we're capable of winning there.
What our focus is just winning at each track that we go to. Next week is Charlotte, and I don't even know after that. Martinsville. And we're going to go there.
One week at a time, we just focus. We prepare far in advance, but right now we just think about it a week in advance, and go in there and give it everything we've got. I mean, that's what we've done the last two weeks we've finished second. You know, I'm pretty happy with those results.
We can't control what the other guys do. We can only control what we do.
Q. Can you characterize any differences between this chase and others you've been in before, in particularly the intensity that seems to be added with the late race double file restarts like we saw today?
JEFF GORDON: Well, no doubt the double file restarts are adding a lot of excitement and intensity. Had we not had those double file restarts you might not have seen any lead changes there towards the end. So it was exciting to see some lead changes and be a part of that. We're seeing that everywhere we go.
So I definitely say that that's a change from what I've seen in the past. But I've never seen any Chase really go the same way. I mean, the last three finished the same way, but there's all kinds of different ways to win it. What happens within that Chase is different each and every week and each and every year, and I can't really go into specifics because there's never been two alike in my opinion.
Q. Do you see any tracks throughout the remainder of the year where the double file restarts may have as great an impact as they had at this track?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, every weekend, you know. In two weeks at Martinsville, the outside lane is not the preferred lane. So guys that are on the inside lane, it's going to be big. You can see a freight train of guys. What that does is builds frustration for the guys on the outside trying to get down on the inside, and that's when you start seeing contact and crashes and things happening.
Charlotte is going to be intense just like we've seen on the double file restarts there for the All-Star event. It gets pretty crazy. So, you know, I think it's every weekend. Every track. There is no one that is any more or less than the other, except for maybe Talladega. I think Talladega, you know, we're already double file there anyway most of the time, so it's not going to be that big of a deal there?
Q. Primarily this track is probably the biggest difference compared to last year where Jimmie just ran away with it?
JEFF GORDON: I don't remember what he did last year.
Q. Last year on Labor Day, he led the majority of the laps and ran away with the race there.
JEFF GORDON: Well, from where I was looking, he ran away with it today (laughing). So I didn't see a big difference. The only thing I saw was Juan Pablo. He's really stepped it up, man. Those guys whatever they're doing, it's working. He's fast. He at least gave the 48 a run for his money.
We played around with him on the restarts, but really had nothing for him. At least Juan had something for him at times. Other than that, I don't see anybody that could have touched him the last couple of times he's been here this time of the year?
Q. Asking this out of curiosity, not to be a smart ass or anything. When you talk about you feel like they were in another class, obviously, with you guys coming out of the same shop, can you shed some light on what is the difference? Do you have any idea what the difference is or how things have separated themselves like that?
JEFF GORDON: Ask the tech center. I don't know. I have no idea.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Congratulations on a good run.
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