Jeff Gordon-Juan Pablo Montoya 'Tradin' Paint' Notebook Young drivers impressed; Crews also enjoy test INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, June 11, 2003 -- Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kyle Busch and Bryan Vickers were on hand for the Jeff Gordon/Juan ...
Jeff Gordon-Juan Pablo Montoya 'Tradin' Paint' Notebook
Young drivers impressed; Crews also enjoy test
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, June 11, 2003 -- Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kyle Busch and Bryan Vickers were on hand for the Jeff Gordon/Juan Pablo Montoya "Tradin' Paint" exhibition June 11 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Busch, 18, recently made his NASCAR Busch Series debut and is the younger brother of NASCAR Winston Cup star Kurt Busch. It was Kyle Busch's second trip to the Brickyard as he attended the 2002 Brickyard 400 to watch his brother compete.
"It's a nice facility, amazing facility for how much history is here and how old it is." Busch said. "The first time I came here and looked down the front straightaway, it looked like they were driving down into a tunnel."
The Gordon/Montoya swap marked the first time that Busch had seen a Formula One car in person.
"I think they're really neat cars," Busch said. "Pretty amazing, how far they've come. For them to be here at Indy, that's pretty neat. It's an awesome chance to be here and see what's going on. Juan getting in a stock car, that's pretty awesome."
Busch said a chance to drive a Formula One car might be an opportunity to settle a little family rivalry between Kyle and Kurt Busch.
"It'd be the first for both of us," Busch said. "So I guess you'd kind of see who the better driver is because it'd be the first for both of us. He's driven a champ car around a little bit, so he's got a little bit of an edge, but not much."
Vickers, 19, is fifth in NASCAR Busch Series points and turned the first laps ever for a Winston Cup car on the IMS road course on June 10, ensuring the car was ready for the Montoya/Gordon swap.
"This is probably one of the most fun days I've had actually not being in a race car," Vickers said. "Juan's a super-nice guy. You can just walk right over and talk to him. It's just amazing seeing that car and seeing him get in this car and do an awesome job."
Turning his first laps in a Winston Cup car at IMS also impressed Vickers.
"To be the first Cup car on the road course was awesome," Vickers said. "It meant a lot to me. It's the first time that I've ever been on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I grew up in stock car country in North Carolina, but Indianapolis has a special place in my heart, and it's one place I have a lot of respect for."
Both Busch and Vickers are hoping to someday compete in the Brickyard 400.
"I would love to," Vickers said. "I hope I get the opportunity to come back here soon and race these guys and do the four turns and cross those bricks."
Said Busch, "It's one of the best races on the schedule as far as my book goes."
More driver thoughts: Former IRL IndyCar Series driver Scott Goodyear and road racing standout Boris Said both were on hand for the historic exhibition. Goodyear, who finished second in the Indianapolis 500 in 1992 and 1997, was impressed with the test.
"I think it's very cool," Goodyear said. "I think it's unique in the sense that it gives these guys an opportunity to do something that they probably generally wouldn't get to do. It gives the fans an opportunity to see them do it, which is a lot of fun for the fans.
"I think it's great that the Speedway is hosting stock cars and F1 cars here."
Said has competed in several different types of motorsports and routinely drives NASCAR Winston Cup events at Sears Point and Watkins Glen.
"I think it's awesome," Said said. "You have the two best drivers in the world from different disciplines. Juan was impressive; I didn't think he would do that good. It's a different animal than what he's used to, but he was smooth."
Said has turned laps on both the 2.5-mile oval and the 2.606-mile road course and is impressed with the road course.
"If you compare it to Spa or purpose-built (road courses), yeah, it doesn't have the same character," Said said. "I've driven on a lot of "rovals," ovals with an infield road course and this is one of the best. They did a good job with the space they had, and I'm a golf fan, so I wouldn't want to see them destroy the golf course."
Crews also having fun: Juan Montoya and Jeff Gordon weren't the only people having fun with the car swap. Montoya's WilliamsF1 crew and Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports crew were impressed with the different cars.
"That car is awesome," said Dave Smith, a rear tire changer for Gordon. "I never thought I'd get to see one that close. It's good to see Jeff drive one and run as fast as he did. Those cars are unbelievable."
Said Steve Letarte, car chief for Gordon: "It's a neat opportunity. It's interesting to see Juan get in this and be impressed with the power and the grip, but at the same time, you go 30 seconds faster in that other car. It seems like they both like driving them both."
Both Smith and Letarte agreed they wouldn't mind having Montoya's car for the NASCAR Winston Cup events at Sears Point and Watkins Glen.
"That sounds good to me," Smith said with a laugh.
Mario Theissen, BMW motorsport director, also enjoyed watching the swap.
"I think it is a fantastic event for the two teams and for the people that are here at the track," Theissen said. "I think if you look at the drivers' faces, it's like Christmas for them. It's completely different, but if you look at how much fun Juan had driving, you understand that it's a different type of racing, but fascinating, as well."
Loomis coming to USGP?: Jeff Gordon's crew chief, Robbie Loomis, has considered showing up for the United States Grand Prix on Sept. 28 despite the NASCAR Winston Cup event that weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
"We'll probably have to field a car in it now for Jeff, he might take that weekend off now at (Talladega)," Loomis joked. "It is a great race. Indianapolis has so much history, it's just a special feeling when you walk in here.
"Jeff's always wanted to drive one of those cars and to see him -- I've seen him more excited about this test than I've seen him for any race since I've been with him in three and a half years. His confidence and his seriousness -- he wanted to know everything about the steering wheel, everything he needed to know about a Formula One car. His excitement and carefreeness has been really good."
Loomis also was impressed with Montoya.
"To see Juan drive Jeff's car and be as smooth and consistent as he was is a tribute to what a great road racer he is," he said. "The laps he's had at Indy I'm sure contributed to that.
"He (Montoya) had a lot of fun driving the car. The car's got a lot of acceleration and really tails out. He said in his Formula One car that if you tail it out, you're gone. Time for a new car. That's probably the biggest thing for Juan, was driving the car loose and still being able to hang on to it."
Proud parents: Jeff Gordon's stepfather and mother, John and Carol Bickford, were on hand at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch Gordon turn his first laps in a Formula One car.
"It's awesome," Carol Bickford said. "The sound -- I've never been this close to a Formula One car before. I've watched them on TV, but I had no idea. It's unbelievable."
John Bickford hopes Gordon's test may inspire an American to compete in Formula One, something that hasn't been done since Michael Andretti in 1993.
"Ultimately, when you think of open-wheel, you think of the IRL, you think of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," John Bickford said. "But you always think about opportunity that might present if you're really good at that and go to Formula One and represent America as it's best open-wheel driver and compete as Mario Andretti did, and win a championship.
"America needs a Formula One driver, and I hope that what we're seeing here today will bring a great awareness to the Speedway, to Formula One and the United States Grand Prix. There's a kid out there in America someplace that can do this. And that kid can be a Jeff Gordon or a Mario Andretti and he can compete at a level that he represents America in Victory Lane."
Montoya's wife, Connie, and his father, Pablo, also watched the test trackside.