Indianapolis: Montoya, Ganassi - Friday media visit

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger) How much for this oval can you use from IndyCar experience? "It's pretty hard to compare. The last time I was here was seven years ago, and we were running wide open all the way around...

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)

How much for this oval can you use from IndyCar experience? "It's pretty hard to compare. The last time I was here was seven years ago, and we were running wide open all the way around (the track). It is a little bit different with Cup cars. It is pretty hard. There are a lot of things I remember from winning the Indianapolis 500 that I want to see what works and what doesn't. For me, it is exciting to be here and being able to compete in all three races. At the end of the day, we need to focus on what we need to do. We need to come here, work on the car and get the job done."

About coming to the 2000 Indy 500 with confidence "I don't think we were that confident. I thought we would have a chance. I don't think we were like, 'We are going to kick everybody's ass.' We did and it was great. That was the plan, and I think it is always the plan. I'm hoping for a good result. With the F1 program, we came here and had two or three chance to win the race and always broke down."

What did the Indy 500 victory do for your career? "I think winning the Indy 500 was a huge deal for me. I think until race day I didn't realize how big it was. You spend about three or four weeks going around with nobody. It's like this, maybe 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 people, but in a place that seats 400,000 it's like empty. Then all of the sudden you come out on race day and it is completely packed and you go, 'Wow, what happened here.' It's funny because I think people that have done it for a long time they get a lot of myths in their heads of like, 'Oh you know a track with all the people narrows down.' It's still the same race track when there are people there. It's funny. It was exciting. Looking back it is good to say that I won it. It's one of those things that is like been there and done that kind of deal. It's great for my career."

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Chip Ganassi (Owner, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)

What did the Indy 500 victory do for your organization? "I think at that time in our team's history we were very, very strong as a team. We had just come off of winning four championships. We came here the following year and we had a great driver and we knew that, but we also had a great backup staff of mechanics, engineers and management that really, really pulled this off. I think the interesting thing that I remember from winning the Indy 500 was that a lot of people forget that the day before was the rain out date or there was a race in Nazareth because the Kart race got snowed out in the spring. The day before we raced in Nazareth. We were in Nazareth, Pennsylvania racing a Kart car on Saturday and the team came here and won the Indy 500 on Sunday. It was a pretty big feat and not a lot of teams could have done that. The thing that I remember about it you know is we should have actually won two races that weekend. That was certainly a high point in our team's career and Juan and my self's relationship. It was something obviously that we will never forget."

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Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)

What are the differences between open-wheel and stock car racing? "It's been a big transition. There have been weeks when you get in the car and you've been competitive , everything goes smooth, you're quick all week and you think man this is good. Then there are weeks where you are like whoa what happened. With so many races even when you run good and you know the cars and everything you are going to have that, and that is very new to me. There are so many races that it becomes a lot of point racing and sometimes you forget that you have to bring the car home. You forget and get in little battles that you shouldn't and things like that. It's all about learning how far to go and learning the limits of everything. That has been a big challenge for me."

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Chip Ganassi (Owner, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)

What's it like having him back on your team? "Juan and I have a relationship that I like to think it transcends racing. We don't talk about racing that much quite honestly. We never have and I don't know that we ever will. We just seem to work well together and it's great to have him back. There is no one else I would rather have I can tell you that."

Assess Juan Pablo's performance this year? "People have a lot of expectations about someone with obviously the background that he has in racing with different vehicles and coming into NASCAR now. I would say that it is right on if not a little bit ahead of plan. People look and say, well gee -- why did you qualify in the 20s or why did you finish 18th or something. They don't think that's maybe that good relative to other series or relative to what other people are used to. I mean, I will point out that Juan finished 17th or 16th or something on the lead lap at Martinsville. I will tell you right now that if you go into that garage area and ask in that garage area they think that is a super-human feat for the first time there. To be able to take that and go from his performance at the super speedways at Daytona and Talladega that is a completely different study than how you do at Martinsville. He's done a great job there in the draft and learning how to draft in that type of environment. You take that and you, you know we thought we would do well in a place like Sear's point or I guess it is Infineon. I'm sorry about that I guess I am an old-timer when it comes to stuff like that. Overlay that with a mile and a half track. I mean you have a lot of these guys that have tendencies and have run 10,000 laps around these places you know. And how many races do we go to? Our team, I don't know the statistic, but I can tell you that I think there is barely a hundred cup starts between all three of my drivers combined. So to go there and have that kind of performance is a great feat I think. That is how I would assess his first year. Now, is there a long way to go? Absolutely. Are we going to cover that ground? Yes. Are we happy where we are at? Yes, but we have a long way to go too."

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Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)

When you swapped cars with Jeff Gordon did you run the oval or the road course? "Road course. They actually wanted me to run the oval and I hadn't run the oval in three years. I was like -- no, this place is fast enough. I would rather do the road course. I know the road course well. I go there a lot and I would be a lot more comfortable driving the cars on the road course instead of the oval. So they brought the road course car and It was a lot of fun. I was pretty comfortable from the word go in the car. I think that is one of the reasons that when we talked to Chip about doing it I thought you know I was pretty comfortable in that car there. You know I need to learn the ovals and learn everything, but it wasn't like this is out of my league. That was probably a good thing that we did that."

What has been your biggest challenge between The Car of Tomorrow, The Car of Today and the Busch car? "In the COT we are pretty good. We're pretty comfortable. When the car works good and stuff it is pretty good. I am pretty comfortable in the small ovals and the faster ones because the car is very hard to read sometimes. Sometimes you get in and it kind of tells you where it is and sometimes it doesn't. When it doesn't I think the guys with experience know how far they can push it and I haven't got there yet. I drive the car a lot tighter than they do like my other two teammates and we run about the same pace. I get in the car and we can't even get up to speed it's so loose. It's very different. I think the team had to learn a lot the way that I drive the cars, and I have to learn a lot about how they balance the cars. There is always a big compromise. Something Chip always tells me, and I forget a lot, is you are not going to be perfect with these cars. Maybe you are going to have five or 10 laps where the car is going to be really good and the rest you are either going to be too loose or too tight, because you have the fuel tank so prepared. It's always a big compromise as to how loose can you drive the car fast at the beginning. That is one of the things that can work a little bit. You know the track changes a lot during the race and we still haven't got to the point where we are like, man we had a really good car at the end - maybe one or two races. Everywhere else its like we could have, should have or we went to far, not far enough. We haven't really found the points where we were like man this is what we need to do."

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Chip Ganassi (Owner, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)

Are you more focused on making The Chase or development and improvement moving forward? "I think in some sense we are not even close to hitting the panic button or anything like that about where we are at in the points. I don't think we sit there each week and think how do we get in The Chase and I think everybody understands that. We just need to do well week in and week out. Maybe we need to work a little extra hard on the places that we think we can do well to try and score points. I think that we have had a pretty good year so far with Juan. He has won in every car that we have put him in this year. What better kind of a rookie year can you have? It started off in February with the 24 Hours at Daytona. He won a Busch race after that and he has won a Cup race. Our big push now is to get him to win on these ovals. If the year ended tomorrow I would say it was a great year. We didn't suck all year."

"I think it is a huge positive. Let's face it a lot of open wheel drivers have had the challenge coming into this series. Don't forget that. There was still a big role of the dice a year ago in Chicago when we announced this deal. That was a big role of the dice. And then to have to wait so long to put him in a car -- everybody forgets about all that stuff. I can tell you that I was sweating pretty hard there figuring out when we were going to get him into a car to test and then drive. To put Juan through all of the things that he went through and never flinched him for a moment about going to Iowa and doing the ARCA race and places that no one has ever heard of let along someone from another country. That is a big thing and I don't want anyone to forget that anytime soon. I was sweating bloody murder the whole time hoping that not only could he do it, but I knew that he could do it. You don't just want to have somebody have a bad experience early on. That could change his whole perspective. Never once did he with every little ding of a fender and every time he misunderstood a spotter or something. Still some of those things are going to happen from time to time. These are all new experiences. Juan hasn't been in 50 oval track races yet. Most of these guys have run 50 oval track races before they were 14 years old. We are still in a process here of coming along and by no means are we there yet. I couldn't be happier with where we are."

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Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)

On handling stress? "I just get in, drive the car and see what happens. There is not much more that you can do. You prepare with the whole team and you come with the best you can each week. I think sometimes you are disappointed with the results and sometimes you're good. You need to keep in mind where you come from and where you are going. As long as you keep that in perspective you will be fine. There are weekends where things are horrible and you wish you were in a different place. It's just part of the job. Chip believes in what I can do and I am a believer as well. I think it is a respect we have for each other and a respect we have as a team. It makes things much easier for me."

Do you expect from a stock car here? "Probably out of the two it will be the hardest. The Formula One circuit was straightforward and with the IRL cars it was like a fast oval, pretty flat, but that was what I used to drive every week so we knew what we had to do. Coming here, I've been asking people where do you brake and that kind of thing and I try to ask a lot before going out so I get a different idea. You just come out and see what you can do. Here, you've got so little time by the time you get to qualifying it's like I'll get about 15 laps. And people wonder why we suck in qualifying and we go out and we go forward pretty fast."

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Chip Ganassi (Owner, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)

"If I can answer that, too, one of the things I'm going to point out now because I'm not sure I've pointed out in the press yet but when we go to places that we've been before, we were pretty excited about going to Michigan and that was one of our poorest races. And we kind of thought 'Gee, he's been there before and actually won a race there.' It just didn't pan out for us that weekend. We had a tough weekend there. Going into this weekend, I'm like I hope we don't have that same thing at Michigan. But there are a lot of other circumstances that come into play there that weekend. Just as a statement, places that we've been before that he's done well at before, no connection."

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Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)

"There was no connection. He was saying it was exciting going to Michigan. I'm thinking 'Yeah but the last time I went to Michigan you could like Talladega in the IndyCars, you know, four-wide all the way around. With these things, you get in there and you've got to get on the brakes. It's a completely different thing. For us when you do open wheel you go to a place like Michigan or California that's high banked. I was like man, that's really high. You go in stock cars and it's like where's the banking? It's all different. It's actually easier for me if I want to go to new places because I have no perception whatsoever of anything. I just go there and okay, I've got try here, I've got to try there, I've got to try there and it's a lot easier, actually. But this place, I've been here once before and I should be pretty good."

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Chip Ganassi (Owner, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)

You recently changed Juan's crew chief in the Busch Series and name a new president. Do you expect more changes during the remained or the year? "I want to talk about that a little bit because I think I was kind of taken out of context in the press and I'm glad you asked that question about changing his Busch crew chief. We didn't really change Juan's Busch crew chief. We changed Reed Sorenson's Busch crew chief and the result of that was that Juan was going to get a change also. We basically switched the two crew chiefs on the car and that was really been for Reed's benefit. I came to Juan and said 'Hey, these guys are talking about changing the crew chiefs. How do you feel about that?' He said if it's better for the team go ahead and do it. I don't care. I'll work with anybody. So I think that's an important thing I want to point out here because that was done as an accommodation for someone else and he just said hey, whatever you've got to do, go ahead and do."

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Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)

Where does winning here rank and does this feel like just another race weekend for you? "Before you come here race weekend, once the race weekend starts you get in, drive the car and see what happens. You cannot come into a place thinking we're going to win this and this is awesome and I'm the only driver to run three races here. I think when I'm 50 that's going to be a remarkable thing to remember but today it's getting the job done."

You've raced at some historic places. Where does Indy rank among them? "I think this place and Daytona are the biggest places for fans. I think Monaco has the yachts, the boats. It's like look at that boat and that's bigger and that's bigger. I think every racetrack has a nice thing about it, I think. I've been coming here since 2000 every year."

What would it mean for you to win at Indy this weekend? "Every win is exciting. When I won my first CART win that was huge. When I won the 500 that was huge. When I won my first Formula One win that was huge. Winning Monaco was awesome. When I won at Sonoma in Cup that was a huge deal and that takes off a lot of pressure and the team. Do we need to win on an oval? Yeah, we do but it kind of puts our job a lot easier. We can just come in, focus on our job. There's no 'Do you think you're going to be able to win?' Yeah, we can and we did already. Do we want to win more? Yeah, we do want to win more. As Chip said, have we done great things, yeah but we need a lot more. We still have a long way to go."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing