Daytona 500: Montoya - Saturday Dodge interview

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger) ARE PEOPLE IN COLOMBIA NOW FOLLOWING YOUR NASCAR CAREER? "I think more and more people. It's amazing to see. It's pretty exciting to see that people are paying attention and that people...

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)

ARE PEOPLE IN COLOMBIA NOW FOLLOWING YOUR NASCAR CAREER? "I think more and more people. It's amazing to see. It's pretty exciting to see that people are paying attention and that people are interested in it. It was actually funny because I guess speed showed in December, sometime late December, the Indy race again. They just showed it like it was a live race. I went to a shopping mall that evening and people were like, 'what are you doing here? You just finished the race.' And I was like I've been done for four weeks. It's pretty nice to see people paying attention to it. More and more people are paying attention."

DO YOU SEE PEOPLE WEARING YOUR NASCAR STUFF? "A little. You know where I've seen a lot of stickers and stuff like that in cars is in Miami. That amazes me."

WHY DOES IT AMAZE YOU? "Latin people are paying more and more attention to NASCAR. It's great to see. You would think that people may have started to watch it a little, but actually they are getting into it. California this year sold a lot of tickets to the Latin community. I think it's exciting."

ARE MORE PEOPLE RECOGNIZING YOU FROM NASCAR NOW? "Yeah, just people really notice me. Wherever you go people start to know who you are more and more and more. The other day I called to order something, an off-road thing, and I called to get some wheels. They put in the order and asked my why my name sounded so familiar. The guy was finally like, oh I know why. You here that quite a few times and it shows that what we're doing is really pretty good."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE MORE REALISTICALLY A CONTENDER TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500 THIS TIME OUT? "Oh yeah. We definitely are. Do I have as much experience as Tony (Stewart) or Jeff (Gordon) or Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) -- not yet. Do we have the ability to do it -- yes. We are definitely in a competitive position I think. I'm a lot more comfortable driving the car than I was a year ago. I can put the car pretty much anywhere I want on the race track. You know in time you learn the bump drafting and things like that. It keeps rotating. Who leads, who doesn't. It's all about timing. If you get the timing right it will be fine. In the 150s it's not as hard to stay up there, because it's only half the cars. If you drop four places there in a normal race you would lose eight places. It'll be interesting to see. There was a lot of single-file running up front in the 150s. I don't know when you put the 43 cars out there if you are going to see everybody running single-file like they did in Talladega. I really, really doubt it."

YOU DON'T THINK IT'LL PLAY OUT THAT WAY? "I'll be surprised if it does."

ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE MORE PEOPLE WILLING TO WORK WITH YOU THIS SEASON? "I would think so. I worked with a lot of people last year. It's funny, especially with the Penske cars we get along really well. Guys like Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth. Guys like that I know will work with me. When it comes down to it if you are in the right position to win it then you have a chance. If you don't you have to make sure that your line goes as far forward as you can. It comes down to two rows, because three rows is going to be a wreck with these cars."

YOU CAN'T GO THREE WIDE WITH THESE CARS? "You can, but you're not going to run wide open. Two rows when it comes right down to it can run wide open. Three wide the guy in the middle is either going to slide down or up or they are going to cause something."

IS IT MORE THE CAR OR THE DRIVER? "This is more like the 400 last year for me where handling was more of an issue. In the (Daytona) 500 here last year it was pretty easy to be wide open and you could run pretty much anywhere. With these cars they move around a lot more."

IS THAT THE SAME WITH THE CAR OF TOMORROW IN GENERAL? "In general it's the same thing. You know good teams will have a little bit better setup and they're going to make the drivers looks better."

WHAT IS THE POTENTIAL TOMORROW FOR SOME CRAZY STUFF OUT THERE? "Did you watch the truck race yesterday? They couldn't even run three wide and the trucks normally run four wide here. I think the new guys are pretty smart. They are pretty experienced guys from a background of racing, so that should be pretty good. Most of the wrecks are because somebody lost a car. It's not like somebody went on top of somebody or somebody got pushed or something. It should be pretty good. There is so much extra that happens in front or behind you that is completely out of your hands and you have to be lucky enough not to be involved."

IF THE OPEN-WHEEL SERIES UNIFY DO YOU THINK IT WILL CURB THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE COMING INTO NASCAR? "You tell me who else want to try this? I don't know. Dario (Franchitti) wanted to do it, and Dario wanted to do it before I did. When I talked to Chip (Ganassi) about it Dario was the guy who was going to sign already. So that was going to happen. I think Roger (Penske) thought that maybe Sam (Hornish Jr.) would be really good here. He did really good in the 150."

DID YOU HEAR THAT JACQUES VILLENEUVE IS NOT ATTEMPTING CALIFORNIA? "It makes sense if you don't have the money. I think if he would have made the Daytona 500 it would have been a little bit different. If you miss the Daytona 500 you are out of the top-35 again and even if you made California you probably wouldn't make enough points to get into the top-35 and you still have to run five races."

HOW BIG WOULD IT BE FOR BOTH OPEN-WHEEL SERIES TO UNIFY? "I don't know. Is it too late? Don't know, don't care. I raced there many years ago, but when I raced they were split and it was good at the time."

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE ONE SERIES? "Yes and no. Yes because it's good for the general sport and maybe for teams to find sponsors for that series. People in America are a lot more interested in NASCAR than they are with open-wheel. Is it going to bring open-wheel back to greatness in America? I really doubt it. I really, really doubt it. All the good teams right now are in IndyCar, apart from Newman/Haas, so is it going to change that much? It's just they are going to go to places that they were not going. They are going to go to Australia. They are going to go to, I don't know, Japan. They are going to go to a few places that the traditional open-wheel fan goes to. You know a guy that goes to Long Beach, whether his car is an Indy car is still going to go there."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth