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Feb 14, 2013 - 04:22 PM
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2013 Daytona 500 Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Juan Pablo Montoya
Posted by: ASkyler on Feb 14, 2013 - 04:22 PM
2013 Daytona 500 Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Juan Pablo Montoya

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS, met with media and discussed racing at Daytona, the new Chevrolet SS Sprint Cup Series car, improvements to the team and other topics.

ARE YOU STILL FEELING GOOD ABOUT YOUR WIN IN THE ROLEX 24 HOUR? "I think the Rolex win was definitely a plus. It is fun. Different than the other wins was actually finishing the race. I think it was pretty special. Makes it a little bit more fun. To tell you the truth, 2011 and 2012 were hard. In ’12, it was one of those years that everything could go wrong went wrong. If we ran well, it would break down. If we ran bad, we ran all day. We just didn’t seem to get it right. I think over the winter they realized, even last year, how much work needed to be done to get ourselves more competitive. I believe the homework has been done. Are we going to fix the whole problem? Not 100% sure, but I think we are definitely going in the right direction. We are going testing and we are competitive. I think that it is a good sign."

ARE YOUR NUMBERS MORE A REFLECTION OF WHERE THE ORGANIZATION HAS BEEN, AND NOT YOUR GROWTH? "It is kind of crazy. I always said it would take about three years, and in year three, everything was good. We made the Chase. We were leading races and fighting for wins and stuff. Even the year after was good. Then the next two years have been really hard years. I think as a team when there were a lot of changes made, we just took a step back. We finally put all the right tools and things in place. Chip (Ganassi, team owner) put in a lot over the last year in getting better equipment and more simulation and stuff into the team. I think it is paying off."


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HAS IT BEEN HUMBLING? "It is not humbling, it sucks. It’s not about humbling. I’ve won at everything I have been in, and I came to NASCAR and I’ve been good. I know I can do it. To run where we’ve run, it hasn’t been fun. It hasn’t been fun for Chip, or Jamie (McMurray) or myself, or the crew chiefs, or the organization or Target. We know we have the right tools to make it work, and I think this year we’ve done enough over the winter that is going to put us in a better situation. I think going to a new car helps. I think taking some of the things people were doing like the rear bushing, the track arm bushing and track bars, and things like that which are going away, I think are going to make us more competitive because they are going to lose some of their advantage. As well, we are making ourselves better."

HOW PIVOTAL A YEAR IS THIS GOING TO BE FOR YOU? "I think every year is. I don’t know make or break what. I made the Chase two or three years ago. There has been two hard years. I think not only for myself, but Jamie. We ran pretty close together. Even last year as bad as we ran, we had two poles. I always run as hard as I can, and that is all I can do."

ARE YOU THE SAME DRIVER? "I think I’m a lot better driver than I was four or five years ago. I have not only the open wheel experience, but the stock car experience. I understand how the races work. How everything is done. So, yes, way better."

IS YOUR EDGE THE SAME? "Yes. It is kind of funny. People say the edge or these or that, and you look, I get in the GRAND-AM car that is a car that can win races, and you dominate. It’s completely different."

DID YOU EVER START TO WONDER IF THIS WAS THE RIGHT PLACE TO BE? "No, not the right place to be. I am committed to Chip and to Target. And, we are committed to make this work. As long as that is the case, yes, we’re going to try to make this work. Chip is committed to it. When he fired Brian (Pattie), and he fired everybody else, he didn’t think that was working and he needed new people, he hired new people. As everybody starts coming together, you kind of expect everybody to work perfect side-by-side from day one. But they have to understand, and understand the problem. One you understand the problems, then you can find solutions."

WHAT ABOUT NASCAR IN GENERAL? WHEN YOU CAME HERE SIX YEARS AGO, YOU TALKED ABOUT THE COMPARISON TO F1: "Racing is still amazing. I still love it. I still love being here. But, when you’re not running good, it’s not fun. I don’t think it is fun for anybody."

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR VALENTINES DAY? "I will put it this way. This morning my wife woke up and said ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ and I went ‘Oh no, I forgot’. Yes, that wasn’t good. Her birthday is next Tuesday, so we are doing a dinner at home on Monday, and I am inviting everybody and getting everything sorted out. Getting the food, and everything myself. So it never even crossed my mind about Valentine’s Day. So I screwed up there."

WELL, YOU GOT HER A ROLEX WATCH: "Yes, she took my Rolex. Honestly she did. I gave the watch to someone at the trophy presentation in Victory Lane, and I came back to the motorhome, and she’s wearing the watch. So I thought ‘Okay’. "

HAVE YOU SEEN IT SINCE THEN? "No. But that’s fine. As much as I suffered over the last couple of years, she’s been there as well. We enjoy the success together, as much as we enjoy the hard times together."


YOU HAVE THREE KIDS AND A DOG. HOW HAS THE DOG BEEN? "The dog is great. I don’t deal with it, so it is great. I play with it. That’s all that I do. That was the deal. To tell you the truth, the dog is a funny story. Do I like dogs? Yes, I like dogs. Do I want to have a dog? No, I don’t want to have a dog. I had dogs when I was a kid. Parents are so excited, they give you a dog. You play with dog for a month, and the rest of the life of the dog, the parents have got to take care of it because the kids never play with it again. It is a fact. It is what it is. They have been trying to convince me to get a dog. I said the deal is simple, I don’t clean, I don’t feed, I don’t anything. I will play with the dog, I will love the dog, but I don’t want to take care of it and they said okay. So I said okay, we’ll get the dog. So, it’s all good."

HOW MUCH GRIEF DO YOU STILL GET FOR THE JET DRYER? "Way too much. I actually got mad at somebody this morning for saying there is a bigger one now. People are dumb enough to think I hit the thing on purpose, like I really want to try and kill myself. It is kind of crazy. That was a freak accident, and in a way, I was very very lucky to walk away from that one. Not only myself, but the guy driving the jet dryer. To walk away with nothing out of that it was a miracle. I was glad it was over."


WHEN YOU GOT OUT OF THAT CAR, YOU SEEMED WOBBLY: "Yes, I actually. My foot hurt. The clutch pedal sliced my boot open. And I bent the pedal from the impact. I got out of the car and leaned on my foot, and it was painful."

WHAT EXACTLY WENT WRONG ON THE CAR? "One of the truck arms broke."

HOW SCARY WAS THAT MOMENT? "You know you are going to hate something, and you know whatever direction you are sliding, you know that is where you are going."

YOU ARE IN A GOOD MOOD, ARE YOU GLAD TO BE BACK? "I am excited to be back. I’ve been working really hard over the off season at training, and testing, and with the team. I don’t think we can be better prepared than we are right now. The hard thing at Daytona with the restrictor plates, it doesn’t show how good you really are or where you stand until you get to race two or three. We were good here in testing. The Hendrick motors were really good. Our cars seem really good, so we are excited."


IS HE A LOT FURTHER ALONG NOW? "Yes, I think he had a bit of reality check when he came in. I think when you come from Hendrick, everything is the way it is supposed to be. The cars are good. I don’t think he needed to worry about how quick the car was, the chassis, or this or that. He came into a world where he needed to make sure the chassis were right. There was a lot of things that we needed to work on. We wanted to try a lot of things, and things weren’t working on the car, like that bushing that everyone was doing. We could never make that work. There were a lot of things that really hurt our performance."

WILL THE UNLIMITED SHOW US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW THE CARS ARE GOING TO PERFORM? "I think it is going to show how the cars are going to draft, and how they are going to run. I’m glad I’m in it. Last year, it was exciting when we got those two poles because they were a big deal for us. We needed something to show for our efforts. Getting those poles were pretty big. To come out of that is a big benefit here. At that time how the Bud Shootout, or the Sprint Unlimited now, was going to be. Now to know that being on-pole is a plus, I think it is going to have benefits."

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A 20-LAP SEGMENT AT THE END? "Whatever they bring. For us to wreck, it takes about lap. 20-10-5 are plenty. (LAUGHS)."

WHEN YOU GOT IN THE NEW CAR FOR THE FIRST TIME, WAS THERE A DISCERNIBLE DIFFERENCE? "The first time I got in it, they were trying to decide on which side of the aero package to go, and they had taken all of the downforce out of the car. We were at Texas. I was like ‘oh really, we don’t like this’. We were sliding around, it wasn’t fun. The next time I got in the car was at Charlotte, and they had all the extra downforce in it, and I was like ‘oh, now this is a race car’. It was fun. I think they understood where they needed to go with it."

DID THEY GIVE YOU MORE GRIP WITH IT? "It is a little more predictable. I think there are a couple of things that are really playing to my driving style. I think it is going to be a plus."

HAS ANY TIME IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, HAS YOUR CONFIDENCE BEEN SHAKEN? "You always wonder ‘can I do anything different’? But, even when you run good, you think about how you can make it better. It is hard. When the cars don’t have enough speed, you can compensate for a little bit, but if they aren’t good, they aren’t good. I was telling someone the other day, we are not miracle workers. So you start trying different things, and sometimes you make more damage than help by trying different things."

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A STRETCH THIS LONG OF STRUGGLES IN YOUR CAREER? "No, not really. The beginning of 2011 wasn’t that bad. The first half of the year wasn’t bad, then Brian left and we went downhill, and 2012 was a hard year. You look for example restrictor plate races have never been really good races for me. One thing or the other. We didn’t finish a single one last year. The two races that we have a shot a winning easily are the road courses, and we were good at both of them. One we had a fuel pickup problem, and the other one the suspension broke. It’s like ‘really?’ Everything that could go wrong went wrong. So, it was hard. They throw at you things you can handle, and I’m good with it. It’s tough, but I’m motivated, and I’ve been working hard. I don’t want to leave anything on the table so it’s good."

WHAT’S THE DOG’S NAME? "Spot. It’s a French Bulldog."

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