IRL: Indy500: Juan Montoya, Chip Ganassi press conference

QUESTION: "Winners of the 84th running of the Indianapolis 500, driver Juan Montoya and car owner Chip Ganassi. Again, because of deadlines, let's just throw it open to questions right now. Juan, they said out there that at one point out ...

QUESTION: "Winners of the 84th running of the Indianapolis 500, driver Juan Montoya and car owner Chip Ganassi. Again, because of deadlines, let's just throw it open to questions right now. Juan, they said out there that at one point out there you were joking with your crew. Was it really that relaxed out there in the car?"

MONTOYA: "Yeah. It's a lot of fun to be honest, you know. I can tell you that I had a lot of fun today and I laughed a lot with Chip during the race. It was kind of strange."

GANASSI: "We were talking about... we were commenting. He made a comment about what good mileage this car got on the yellow compared to our CART car. That's all. I said, "Hey, we've got to get these guys talking to our CART guys about the engine mileage, you know." He about died when I said that in the cockpit. I couldn't believe it.

Q: "Both for Chip and Juan. Salazar speculated a while ago that you guys' strategy might have been to take a lot of downforce out of the car and rely on Juan's talent."

MONTOYA: "No. The car was perfect. You know, we didn't risk anything. "

GANASSI: "I'll tell you, Eddie, there was a decision we had to make later in the race. We were talking about taking wing out or putting wing in... taking rear wing out or putting front wing in, and I've got to say that part of our decision there was based on something that Juan's teammate did a couple of pit stops earlier. And we did the opposite. So that was... Jimmy can take a little bit of ownership in this win, I can tell you because..."

Q: "How?"

GANASSI: "I won't say what we did to the car, but we did the opposite of what Jimmy did. And he did something and it didn't work."

Q: "The car got very loose, did it not?"

GANASSI: "Yeah."

Q: "So you kept Juan's car tighter than he might have."

MONTOYA: "I think this isn't only a win for me or Chip... Everyone including Jimmy worked. Every person on the team worked so hard for this, you know. We wanted to win here like any other race very badly. And you know, it was fantastic. I thought I was about to lap Jimmy. And I said to Chip, 'Tell Jimmy to move over.' And he said, 'No, he's the leader.' I said, 'Uh-oh.'"

GANASSI: "It was great. If you listened to the radio, you heard that. He goes, "Tell Jimmy to let me by." I said, 'That's for position.' It was pretty good."

Q: "Juan, you've got the Oreo's in your hand. How did the milk taste and do you realize that since Graham Hill as a rookie did not drink the milk that you're probably the first rookie in the Indy 500 history to drink that milk?"

MONTOYA: "Oh, it felt good. I couldn't believe it. It was just over my head. These (Oreo's) are really good right now."

Q: "Juan, when you'd gotten here for that open test back in April, you'd talked a little bit about the track. You said that what you were really looking forward to was to see what it looked like when the stands were full, and just..."

MONTOYA: "Impressive."

Q: "Just talk a little bit about that."

MONTOYA: "You know, since this morning when I came, I was in the garage trying to take it easy and relax. When we're in town, I was with my girlfriend and we just looked at each other and it was like, 'Oh, Jesus! This is packed!' It was unreal. You know, everyone says that the track changes when you drive. When you drive, it's the same track, but when... you know, drive around and it's empty. To see so many people out there, that it's great."

Q: "Juan, right after you finished crossing the finish line, Chip said to you on the radio, 'You're world famous.' Do you feel world famous now?"

MONTOYA: "I feel the same, you know. I feel happier than I did an hour ago."

Q: "On a couple of times, Buddy Lazier came up on you a couple of times and shaved your lead away a couple of times. Talk about, talk about racing with these guys and the times that there were some close racing."

MONTOYA: "Oh. We had all the race and everything was going really good. One of the few that was real close to me, is that, you know, was right before one of the pit stops. We were saving a lot of fuel. And I was... you know, he's catching me, but I know we have something in our bag. Then when we started pushing, he was getting closer and I said, 'Uh-oh, this is bad.' And he had a run on me like two or three times. But I went really deep into one. You know, he'd have had to been side-by-side or ahead of me to pass me and I wasn't going to... and after all the laps we'd lead, I wasn't going to let back off that easy."

Q: "Juan, can you just express what this means not only to you, but maybe to everybody back home in Columbia. And does that hit you yet? I mean, winning the race?"

MONTOYA: "No. And I think it'll take some time before you realize what I just won. No, it's pretty happy when I crossed the start-finish line. And it means a lot to every person in Columbia because it's something good. It's good news. And I can tell you I'm sure that a lot of people were watching the race. And it's just so exciting. I can't believe it."

Q: "Was it really as easy as you made it look going around this racetrack absolutely dominating? Did the car feel easy and comfortable for it?"

MONTOYA: "The car was comfortable. You know, Target ... Bill and Chuck and all my guys do a great job of getting me a great car. But it's not easy. It's not easy at all, you know. More with traffic, it just makes so much complicated. And it's ... you've always got to be really careful how ... because you can get through traffic really fast, but you need to know where to cross them, to get the momentum on the straight and pass them. Because if you lose the momentum, you're stuck."

Q: "Lazier was saying he got stuck and boxed in. He said that he felt like everyone was being real sportsman-like with you and letting you through, but you were having to go through the same traffic. You were just working through it. Just like he was, right?"

MONTOYA: "Yeah, it was the same with me. He couldn't pass me because he didn't have a good enough run. And I managed to get a better run on everyone, you know. If I wasn't beside them, they wouldn't let me through. And I had a close call with ... what's her name? Lyn St. James. You know, I was beside her and she nearly put me in the grass. That was the closest call in all the race."

Q: "What were your thoughts during the three-hour rain delay before the race? How did that affect you mentally?" GANASSI: "I think for everyone..."

MONTOYA: "I don't sit down and go, (grumbling) 'And I've got to do that for two more hours now.' It was good because we managed to have lunch before the race. And that's about it."

GANASSI: "Actually, if I can comment on that. I think in our situation, in our team situation, it was ... I don't want to get off on a tangent here, but after yesterday's activities in Nazareth and coming back and hurrying up and get back here, get some rest, go to sleep, go to the track this morning... I actually think the rain delay was probably a positive for our team because it gave everyone a chance to boost down a little bit and you know, tell some jokes and have some fun and kind of just relax a bit before the race. Because it was really just one thing after another over this weekend. So I think it actually was a positive for us. Probably a negative for the fans, but I hope they enjoyed what they saw."

Q: "Chip, could you just kind of assess today's race? It's really the first time you guys have raced against some of the teams here. For the most part it was fairly clean race. Could you give an assessment of that, the series, the competition?"

GANASSI: "Yeah, I mean, it looked to me like any other race, you know. There's certainly the group of fast guys and you know, there's people you pass all the time. It's like all series have that. And it's, you know ... I mean, you know, I thought ... quite frankly, I was a little nervous that we were leading so early. And you know, we've all heard the negatives about early leading here in Indianapolis. And I can tell you, it certainly got our attention there when, you know, there for a while, Jeff Ward was coming up. And you know, you had Ward, Lazier, Salazar, and Vasser was in that mix a little bit there. You know, those guys were coming like a freight train. And you know, again, it wasn't like ... you know, he wasn't radio-ing in all day telling me how easy it was out there. I mean believe me, when you're on the limit, it doesn't matter what kind of car you're in. The limits ... the outside edge of the envelope is just that when you're there."

Q: "Two questions if I may. One for Juan and then a follow-up for Chip. Juan, you were talking about the concentration levels just in getting through traffic and making the momentum ride. How that was a thing you had to work at. What was the most difficult part of the race. Was that part of it, or was it something else, entirely else for you that was difficult today." MONTOYA: "Oh, just keeping everything together, trying to keep cool while at the same time you've got to be aggressive. Because you know, they can put cars between you and the second car, they make so much ground. You know, I had a couple of moments that it was close and I was pushing it, I can tell you. Every lap today, I pushed it as hard as I could."

Q: "And Chip, could you talk a little bit about the time and effort required by your team to do this race and how you organized it, if there was any key to it in that way?"

GANASSI: "I'll tell you what the key to it is, the key is having good guys like Tom and Mike and Andy. I mean, those are the guys who organized it. Not me. And you know I've said this before and I'll say it again. You know, we asked an awful lot of our team in the last two months, whether it was testing an IRL car, jumping past a lot of the drivers, jumping back and forth between IRL to CART, CART to IRL, back and forth you know ... Go to a race, come to Indy to test. Go right from the test, go to another race. Go to Japan, do this, do that. Run around and get rained out at Japan. Come back here and miss two days of practice. No sleep. Get in the car, let's go ... You know, I'll tell you that's a lot, a lot of work and asking ... and when you're in a position of management, you ask yourself sometimes. Are you asking too much of your people? And are you ... or of your drivers. And you know, you know how drivers are. And they ... you know, you do ask yourself sometimes if you're asking too much of your people. And the rewards like this are, I guess, taste that much sweeter to them, I'm sure when you can have a day like you had today. We certainly ... you know, we had things fall our way today. There were certainly, you know ... we were ... the yellows fell where we needed them. We didn't really get caught out by any yellows. It's very easy to do. I mean, you saw yesterday ... we were in a race yesterday that, you know, we had a fast car yesterday and it didn't mean anything. We just kept having things happen in front of us. And those things could have just as easily happened today. And they didn't, so the only thing you can lay that off to is Lady Luck. It's that simple. And Lady Luck was on our side today. We didn't have anybody crash in front of us and you know, we didn't have ... that's a big thing. You can be leading any race in the world and somebody can crash in front of you. You just get caught up in it sometimes, you know. So Lady Luck was certainly a part of today's activities as well."

Q: "Chip, Juan spoke about how it felt to win the Indy 500 As a car owner, how does it feel to win the Indy 500? And Juan, after Chip answers, compare winning the championship last year to today's Indy 500."

GANASSI: "It's hard to put into perspective, you know. I mean, it's certainly huge, and I'm not sure it's hit me yet. You know, everybody wants to, everybody all week or leading up to the race, everybody was always interested in the political side of things and I was not into that. And I'm still not. And you know, this is still a big race. When we walked out this morning through Gasoline Alley there was Jimmy and Juan and it was race time. I was keyed up. This is still the biggest race in the world and it's the biggest win in the world. And it's the biggest race in the world. I mean, right now that's what it means to me. It's obviously going to mean a lot more as time passes. You know, I don't want to sit here and make any statements or anything, but this is very big and I'm hoping ... I'm hopeful that our team is going to be able to do the right thing, whatever that entails as the future comes. Certainly, I'm going to run here. So, I just hope we can do the right thing." MONTOYA: "Well, there's two different things, you know. We winning the championship last year meant a lot to me. The win today did as well. And I think those are the two biggest things that have ever happened in my life so far. It's not one or the other, it's just ... the both are just massive."

Q: "Do you think that the win today will entice your other colleagues to come over here with you next year?"

GANASSI: "I can't talk for my colleagues. You'll have to ask them that."

Q: "Juan, congratulations. Juan, can you just talk about the early stages of the race again. You had a pretty close call there perhaps at the start and then having to tuck in behind Greg Ray ... just talk about that first turn of the race there."

MONTOYA: "Before the start, I made a bit of a mistake, you know. First of all, I couldn't go ... Ray wasn't going flat out on the straight at the beginning, so nobody could have a run on him. Because they had to fall behind him at the start. And that kills, you know. It's like, 'Ew! Ew! Ew!' When I went wide-open, I was turned down the fuel, because for the yellow laps. So I went up, and it was pretty close, you know. Robby had a great run on everyone. And I ran crazy, then when I went to pass Ray later, he came again, really, 'Grrrrrr.' And I was like, 'Jesus, here we go again.' And last (inaudible), I was very close racing with Robby, yeah with Robby and I thought it was going to be a bit too aggressive. I was surprised. Very clean racing, and it just makes it that much more easy for him and me, you know. You don't have to drive crazy with anybody. You know, they go below you and you give them room. And when you go below they give you room. It just makes spacing that much more exciting."

Q: "Chip, it looked like rain was going to affect the way the outcome of the race was going to be today. Did that affect your strategy at all going in?"

GANASSI: "I'm sorry. I didn't hear the question. Oh, when he crashed the second time, you mean?"

Q: "No, rain." GANASSI: "Oh, rain."

Q: "It looked like it was going to rain today. Did that affect your strategy going into the 500?"

GANASSI: "I mean, you know ... just the way the pit strategy happened, I know that we were going to be out there during the half-way point, and I thought, 'Well, if it rains then, we're okay.' But not really that. I mean, you can ... I've been around this race and this town before to know that when you start planning on weather, you're going to be sadly mistaken or sadly let down. You can't worry. I don't know. I try not to worry about things you have no control over. And just do that best you can."

Q: "Juan, you mentioned the difficulty of ... that you experienced here in terms of just racing as hard. Was this the hardest race you've ever raced?"

MONTOYA: "Oh, it's hard like any other race. You know, people out there give 100%, like myself going out there from Lap 1, even though I wasn't comfortable in the car. I had to push it. I wasn't going to back off. It's not that easy to ... but back off, but I can tell you it was tough. It was good when I got to traffic. I managed to pass traffic really good. They were really clean with me. Every single driver did an excellent job. And I want to thank them. I know it was going to be hard, and they'll do something silly because, CART driver or anything, but they behaved like real, professional race car drivers. That's great."

Q: "Juan, I believe it was lap 26, 27, and 28 you had that great little battle with Greg Ray where you ... there were like three or four passes over two or three laps. Can you talk a little bit about how much fun that was and what a challenge he could have been had he not crashed?"

MONTOYA: "Oh, he was fast. We thought we were as fast as him or maybe quicker, you know. We got the traffic. He made a mistake. I'd run on him. And I wasn't going to do, go, 'Vrrrrrrrmm,' just pass him. And then I did the same mistake and he, 'Vrrrrrrrmm,' and when he passed me, he got to the next corner and he did the same mistake again and so I passed him. And managed to go through traffic. He pitted. Then I pitted. I pitted a bit earlier than I thought because I saw the sign with the pits. So..."

GANASSI: "To tell the truth, we had a bit of a radio problem at the beginning of the race."

MONTOYA: "Yeah. We just didn't have radio at the beginning. So we were going to go like lap 5-4-3-2-1, pit, but I saw a pit sign with 3 below it and I didn't exactly know where exactly I was, so I shoot to the pits. And I shoot to the pits three laps earlier than I should have. And we thought, 'Oh! Maybe that's bad for mileage and all that.' But after that, the only guy went further than us was Jimmy for a lap. So the mileage we were getting was just awesome."

Q: "There was some story going around late in the race, that you guys were having some overheating problems. Were you?"

GANASSI: "Not that I knew of."

MONTOYA: "Me neither."

Q: "Juan, Buddy Lazier said that some of the IRL drivers got together, and were joking around saying, 'We can't let these CART guys win.' Did you and Jimmy have similar conversations about beating the IRL?"

MONTOYA: "No. You know, we're here just like any other IRL team, believe me. We're not here with any CART flags or anything like that. Right now, in my position, Chip decided to have an IRL team for the 500 and that's the way we took it, you know. I took myself and I look at myself like any other driver out there."

Q: "Chip, will you bring your team back here next year?"

GANASSI: "I hope so. Yeah."

Q: "Juan, can you talk a little bit about the fan reaction to you over the time that you've been here since the beginning and until through the end of this race? Has it gotten better? Have they warmed up to you, particularly after the race?"

MONTOYA: "Yeah, it's getting better. It was funny because last year we did a pit competition in the last race in CART and we finished fourth out of four. It wasn't very good. And this year, when I went to put it in gear, I couldn't get it in gear. So I grabbed it really hard ... it grabbed the gear, but I didn't have the clutch in so it didn't help much. And we finished last. And I thought, 'Oh, that's pretty good. Last year we had that. This year's the same, so we're going to win.' And it was fun. I jumped out of the car and everyone was going, 'IRL. IRL.' And I'm like, 'Geez, here we go.' But it was great fun."

Q: "And after the race?"

MONTOYA: "Yeah, I saw a lot of people standing. And it's just great. It's great to win here. It means a lot to me. It means a lot to Chip, to Target, to Budweiser, to everyone involved in this project. It's just over the roof."

Q: "Juan, a few days ago, Al Unser, Jr. made some critical comments about you. Do you care to make any comments at all about that?"

MONTOYA: "Well, I used to admire Al. He was a great driver. And I'm surprised he said that, you know. It's the second time he does it. I don't know. I go out there and I push it. And if someone else doesn't want to push it, it's up to them. I go out, I give 100%. I'm surprised I won."

Q: "Juan, Chip, congratulations. Thank you for your time."

-IRMLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , Lyn St. James , Al Unser Sr. , Chip Ganassi , Graham Hill