An interview with: TONY STEWART GREG ZIPADELLI J.D. GIBBS JUAN PABLO MONTOYA JEFF GORDON THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined in the media center by our runner up in today's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, that's Juan Pablo Montoya,...
An interview with:
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined in the media center by our runner up in today's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, that's Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge.
Outstanding performance out there today. Take us through the race.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: At the start, I was just happy to run in the top five. That was the idea, stay in the top five, try to make the car better every stop. And we kept working on it. We really did a little bit of tire pressure, but we put a hell of a lot of (indiscernible) in the car today and couldn't get it freed up. The only time it was free is in the last stop when it was on the green.
I was lucky, I lost the right front tire coming into the pits, I was coming down the pit lane, it blew up. That's why I came up behind Jeff and Junior. It was pretty loose. When we got behind the pace car after that, it actually draw pretty good. Just way too tight in one and three. Just couldn't let the car roll.
Tony was rolling through there so much faster than me, we just couldn't do anything.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Juan.
Q: Did you just run out of time and laps? Could you have caught Tony, do you think?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: You know, he told me, If everybody pits, we're going to stay out. I say, Yeah. He said, It's the only shot of winning the race. I said, Yeah, but to be honest, the 20's too fast. Even if he pits, he's still going to come out and beat us.
You know, they stayed out. But, you know, I don't think anybody had anything for Tony today.
Q: Also you said on Friday there were some things you remembered from the Indy 500 that you were going to try in practice. Obviously you qualified well, ran well.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, a little bit. Mainly just the race line, you know, where you get on the gas and stuff to pass people. It's exciting, you know. I'll tell you, I'm happy. This is the first actual race I get to people and I could pass them. Normally I get to like 12th and you start try to get runs on people, and you can't. Today, it was awesome. I could really go at it, so it felt good (laughter).
JEFF GORDON: Not bad for a rookie (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by our third place finisher, Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet.
Jeff, your thoughts only today's race.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, we had a pretty good race. I mean, we had to come from 21st. You know, wasn't sure how good our car was going to be in traffic. In there early on, we really motored on up through there. I really thought we had something for them. We just got a little bit too tight. We tried freeing it up. One time we took four tires and that just got us so far behind, we played catch up for the rest of the day.
Had a good race. I was happy to get to third. You know, Tony was the guy to beat. I mean, I don't think anybody had anything for him. Juan, you know, was definitely strong there at the end. You know, I think we made the most of our effort. Just shows another great team effort to come here in a big race without a crew chief and finish third. I'm pretty happy.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, again, for both Juan and Jeff.
Q: Juan Pablo, you were pretty close to Dale Jr. there when his engine let go. How much of a moment was that for you?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Nothing. You know, down the straight, you see smoke, get out of the way, get out of the gas. What surprised me is how long it took the yellow to come out. I got out of the gas and just waited. You know, he blow up like on start/finish line. Until he got to Turn 1 that the yellow didn't come out. That surprised me just a bit.
Q: You have a lot of laps now on an oval and stock car. Given the lack of practice here, how much of today was your experience on the track in 2000 and how much is your learning on the ovals?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Uhm, the track, you know, to learn is pretty simple. I found it pretty simple, even when I came here the first time. It is a very different oval, but it's a mixture between an oval and a road course, the short chutes. You know, I like it.
It's funny because I was telling my crew chief, most of the times where we have problems is just past the center of a normal oval. Here just past the center, you're out of the corner. So it worked pretty good.
Q: Juan Pablo, how are you looking at the rest of the season right now? Is the Chase still a possibility coming off a finish like this?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I tell you the truth, if you could get this kind of finish the next two races, then you have a chance. You know, if we get to next weekend, you have an average weekend, then you out.
You know, it doesn't mean we're going to give up. I think we're going to go more forward to try to get wins than try to get into the Chase.
Q: Juan, both you and Reed had really good weekends. Ran well all day, good finishes. Does this say something about where the team is now or is this just this race?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Now, you look at New Hampshire, we had really fast cars. Both his and myself, we had problems with the (indiscernible) stops and the car was just dragging. You know, until then I was running like fifth or sixth all the time.
I think we're getting there. It shows where the team is going. It shows that the potential is there. But it's a little bit like my season, you know, we're going to go to places where we're going to still suck, and we're going to have places where we're going to do really well.
Q: Juan Pablo, when Tony and Kevin were battling about 10 laps to go, you were able to move up a little. Did anybody radio and say maybe there was a chance?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Just keep going, they're going to keep hitting each other (laughter).
My hope was more than Kevin that Tony would damage a fender. The only way to beat Tony was that. He was just too fast.
Q: Jeff, Tony from Indiana winning here, you might know as well as anyone, what is it like to grow up around here and to win at this track?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, he knows a lot better than I do because he was born and raised and raced his whole life around Indiana. I came here as a kid, did a little bit of quarter-midget racing, then moved here when I was like 15.
You know, I know what it meant to me to come here and race here because, you know, it was a dream as a kid to race at Indianapolis, and I know it's been that for a long time for Tony. You know, I know we wanted that Indy 500, now he's got two Brickyard 400s. I know it mean the world to him.
I think it shows their whole effort steps up to another level when they come here. Tony's game is heightened. You know, it showed today. I mean, they were really strong and he was aggressive and made some aggressive moves and won the race.
Q: You've continued to run well and Kyle Busch has seemed to be kind of hit and miss lately, but the other Hendrick drivers have struggled lately. Do you think it's something internally or do you think it's more competition that's just getting better as the season goes on?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, Jimmie's situation, he's just had some bad luck. He's been fast. He's been real fast. You know, I still think, you know, he's a major threat for this championship. Obviously they have to think about things a little bit different now they've had some bad finishes that, you know, have knocked them back in the points to where, you know, we're up there focusing on trying to get bonus points and trying to, you know, get ourselves really prepared for the Chase, which is a good position to be in. Now it puts him in a little bit different position.
But they're strong. I think the 25 car is still fresh and new. You know, they've had some great runs and they've had some not so great runs. You know, I think that just experience and working together and being at Hendrick is going to pay off for them in the long run.
Kyle, you know, those guys are strong right now, as well as our team. Our team's just real consistent, you know, consistently top fives, top 10s.
But, you know, we've got to get into the winner circle some more here before this Chase starts to kind of stop some of the momentum of that 20 team.
Q: Jeff, you were dominant here in '04 and won. You were very dominant here in 2000. At any point when Tony had the car that was able to kind of get out there and push the issue, did it kind of remind you a little bit of the dominance you guys had in those two years?
JEFF GORDON: When somebody else is out there leading, I'm not thinking about how they're feeling compared to the way I was feeling (laughter). I'm just trying to figure out how we can, you know, adjust and catch 'em and do something to get ahead of 'em. That's all I was thinking about.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Same.
Q: Jeff, you've watched Juan Pablo. Could you talk about how you see him developing as a driver.
JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, it's obvious of how talented he is. I mean, I think you look at everything he's ever driven, he's fast and he's had success. You know, so I guess I have expectations of him being able to showcase his talent when he came here, and he has.
I think when their team steps up and gives him the car, he steps up and shows what he can do. I think, you know, they've still got a little bit of work to do to be more consistent with those good cars. But when he has them, like in Atlanta, he impressed the heck out of me. Here he impressed me today.
We expected him to do that at the road courses. You know, it's places like Martinsville and Bristol, some of these tough racetracks that are the ones that you've got to watch, and those are the ones you're going to be impressed the most with.
He's, you know, done a fantastic job. But I expected him to. You know, I guess it's not a big surprise.
Q: Jeff, what is the DuPont team doing to set up for the Chase?
JEFF GORDON: Trying to win (laughter).
You know, I wish our qualifying effort here would be better. We've stunk here in qualifying the last several races, and I don't know where we're missing out. You know, really not many of the Hendrick cars were strong in qualifying, and we've got to fix that. That gets us behind.
But, you know, we just look at the schedule, look at the tracks that are coming up. We've got some Car of Tomorrow races that we're preparing for, like Watkins Glen. Excited about our efforts there. I thought we had one of the best cars today that we've had in a while for the race. Hopefully we'll take something from that and learn something from it and move forward.
Hopefully we can take this car to Pocono. But, I mean, bonus points is what it's all about for us. That means we have to be risky. You know, we can afford to lose some points by taking some bigger risks and possibly getting those bonus points and wins and that momentum that we really need.
The one thing I'm excited about is, you know, we've got a very strong consistent team and we don't have a crew chief right now. I think when Steve comes back, it's only going to heighten us and make us stronger for what we've had to go through for six weeks without him.
Q: Jeff, I asked Juan a while ago if he ran out of laps. He said absolutely not as far as catching Tony. TV was touting you in the late laps as having some of the fast laps, but said you were going to run out of laps. Do you in any way feel like you ran out of laps on this thing?
JEFF GORDON: No, I was just happy to finish third because I was getting ready to get passed by the 5 car, who had fresher tires. I got real loose in that last restart and my car just did not come to life very good. I think that caution really hurt us 'cause I felt pretty good when we came out under that green-flag pit stop. My car was balanced well, and I was happy. I don't think even at that point I ever had anything for Tony.
But when Juan got behind me, I tried to settle in and I saw the 41 coming. You know, I thought he was going to get me, too. Then I had like a couple laps where I was really fast, but I couldn't maintain it. You use the good in the tire, you put heat in 'em and they just go away in one or two laps.
I had one lap there, Great lap, keep doing that. The next lap was probably 6/10ths slower (laughter). No, I definitely didn't. Nobody had anything for Tony today.
Q: Juan, just past halfway point in your first full season in Cup, how would you grade yourself? How do you think you are at this point in comparison to where you thought you would be?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think from where I thought I was going to be, I think I've got to say we're way ahead. Where do I want to be? I think we're still behind. I think not only myself but the whole team.
I think this is a big boost for the team like the win in Sonoma, Reed's win last week in the Busch Series. It really shows what the team can do.
But, you know, we just got to be able to do what Hendrick does. You know, they show up every week, and they're always up there. The only way, first of all, to get into the Chase, and secondly to be able to win a championship, you've got to be good week in and week out.
Q: Do you feel like you've changed at all as a driver?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Changed as a driver, no. I'm the same guy, you know. I think the same thing in Formula One at the end. In the beginning, you're really hot headed, then you learn to play it smarter. This year, you know, what's really nice about this year is the give and take. You just learn to race smart. That's really nice.
Q: The last time I saw you two at a press conference, you had just swapped rides. Did you think at that point it might be more likely that you, Jeff, would join Juan in Formula One than Juan would join you in NASCAR?
JEFF GORDON: I certainly thought that after he drove my car, he'd never want to come drive (laughter).
I can honestly say that after driving his car, I got the bug. You know, I mean, that car was just phenomenal. It was so much fun. One of the greatest thrills of my life behind the wheel of a car was driving that F1 car.
I knew it was never realistic for me to go and be in F1. I mean, I didn't grow up a road racer. I take winning very serious, and I want to be competitive. I could probably have gone over there and driven around in the back, you know, but that's not what I want to do. Obviously, I've got one of the best teams over here.
But, I mean, I guess if I was going to, you know, swing one way or the other, he asked me, you know, What marker are you using for the brakes? I think they had like 100, 200, 300. I said, you know, the first one, the 300, way before that. He's like, Really? I remember he went down in there, locked that front tire up all the way into Turn 1 the first time. He was like, 'You weren't kidding.'
I didn't think you'd want to do that.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It was fun.
JEFF GORDON: Glad you enjoyed it.
Q: Juan, do you feel like you have anything left to prove to yourself or anybody else in terms of your ability to compete for wins in this series, on ovals or road courses?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Something that's very nice in the position that I am right now, I manage to achieve a lot of things in life already. I don't have the pressure of performing to keep a job. You know, a lot of young guys got to do that.
I think guys like Jeff and myself, we see when you see a good opportunity to win, you're going to take it and you're going to work hard for it. But you learn to be a lot smarter, you know, take the chances when you have to, and when you don't have to, you don't.
That's really nice. There's no pressure. Like working for Chip is really nice because he's a guy that believes a hundred percent in me, and it just gives you a lot of confidence.
Continued in part 2