Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Wednesday, July 12,2006 Chip Ganassi and Juan Pablo Montoya NOTE: Chip Ganassi announced Sunday morning at Chicagoland Speedway that Juan Pablo Montoya has signed a multi-year deal with the organization...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Wednesday, July 12,2006
Chip Ganassi and Juan Pablo Montoya
NOTE: Chip Ganassi announced Sunday morning at Chicagoland Speedway that Juan Pablo Montoya has signed a multi-year deal with the organization to compete in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series beginning in 2007. Montoya will drive the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger.
CHIP GANASSI (Owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)
COMMENT ON BIG WEEKEND AT CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY
"It was certainly a big weekend for us. We have little momentum now and we look forward to increasing that momentum as well."
WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR JUAN PABLO NOW IN 2006?
"We all read yesterday and heard the news that McLaren and Ron Dennis had released Juan. Interestingly as I'm sure many of these sports writers understand there are different levels of being released. Are you released fully and completely on day one? Is it shake hands, see you later, get on with your life or is it something where he's going to be released to do some testing? Is he going to be released to do some racing? We're still walking through the mechanics of that. I'm sure there's still some papers that have to be signed and some release documents and everything. While he has been released from his driving duties with McLaren, I think there's still some paperwork that's probably being exchanged right now. I certainly don't want to speak for him or McLaren, but I would characterize it as while he was certainly released there's probably going to be some kind of conditional release."
WHAT IS JUAN PABLO BRINGING TO YOUR TEAM?
"I think you have to understand. This deal sort of looked very quick to a lot of people in the last less than a week, and in a way it was. In a way also, I guess I've been working on it since he did leave the team. Maybe we've been working on for about six years I guess since we last saw him in one of our cars. What does he bring to the team? He brings a lot of excitement, a lot of ability, a lot of attitude. I haven't really given that whole Hispanic thing a thought yet.... What I want to do, I want to win races. We've always had great drivers available to us to drive and this sort of says what our team is doing is right and the way we're going about it is right. So he brings some validation as well I think."
HOW DID YOU PRESENT JUAN PABLO TO YOUR SPONSOR? COULD YOU COMMENT ON HOW THEIR DEMOGRAPHICS MATCH HIS APPEAL?
"In how their demographic matches his appeal, that is something you'll have to ask them. I'm into racing. I'm not into the demographics of major corporations. The interesting thing is Juan Pablo is sponsored by Mobil in Formula 1 and he's under very, very strict rules about what he can say and what he can't say. Obviously having the Texaco/Havoline Dodge step in is something PR people might have a challenge with. I can tell you this. Obviously we wouldn't do anything without Chevron, which is the parent company of Texaco/Havoline, obviously we were in step with Chevron the whole way about what was going on and they were fully supportive, could not have been more supportive of the plan, the idea and how it came down and moving forward. They're very, very excited, obviously. They're a world class company and Juan is obviously a world class driver. I think it goes hand to hand. What else can you say? The world needs the world."
COULD JUAN PABLO RACE ONE OF YOUR CARS AT WATKINS GLEN?
"When we get the details of his release, what we can and can't do, we'll be certainly all over every opportunity we get to put him in good cars at race circuits he needs to see. I have to tell you on the list of important things I want him to learn, driving a Cup car on a road course is way down the list right now."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO JUAN PABLO ABOUT HOW HE MAY BE TREATED IN NASCAR?
"There are going to be people that accept him, and I'm sure there will be people that don't. It's like that in any endeavor, any time there's change. Everybody likes change as long as it doesn't affect them. The ways of the world are changing. People within our own organization here had some question. I think as soon as they met Juan face-to-face at the racetrack within 20 seconds... The guy has got an infectious personality No. 1 and No. 2, you realize he gets it about racing. I don't have any problem with him being accepted, being nudged around on the track. I'm sure people will try him on for size, but that's all part of it. I'm sure he'll earn their respect on the track, and I'm sure he'll have everyone's respect off the track as well."
DO YOU SEE NASCAR AS BEING THE TOP RACING SERIES IN THE FUTURE?
"That's an interesting question. For many years here in the United States there's been an influx of interest in NASCAR. In the last 10 years NASCAR has exploded. Really it began with what they call the Modern Era (beginning in 1972). There have been so many interesting things that have happened in the modern era of NASCAR. It has a lot of interest. The interest continues to go up year in and year out. When they signed this new TV package, when they went to FOX, there's a huge, huge amount of interest in the NASCAR arena from sponsors, from drivers, from teams. It only continues to grow. I'm not someone who keeps score on what's the biggest racing series in the world or what's the most popular or whatever. I look at it from a racing point of view. I like being involved in racing. It's my business. It's my job, and I love it. I have a lot of passion for it. I have a lot of interest in it, but it's for other people to decide which is the biggest one in the world or what's the most interesting one. You have to say there is a lot of interest in NASCAR with people in the United States. We'll have to see if that expands."
COMMENT ON MEXICAN DRIVER LUIS DIAZ
"Luis is obviously at the top of his sport in the country of Mexico now. Probably the premiere driver in the country, and we're fortunate to have him in our sports car team, and I look forward to working with him for years to come."
HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT'LL TAKE JUAN PABLO TO BECOME COMPETITIVE IN CUP?
"I can only go off of my past experience. He's shown to pick up new tricks pretty quickly even though he's not an old dog, so I don't see that as a major challenge. A lot of times in these Cup cars it's the things you don't do as opposed to things you have to do. With his racing experience he knows the things you have to do. I think it's a question of a pretty long list of things you don't do. We have some interest from some veteran drivers who want to help Juan along the way, one in particular sticks out. I hope we can get him to help us along the way because a lot of these veterans have a lot to add in terms of nuisances of different circuits and tracks, the dos and don'ts of a Cup car. A couple of these retired guys, one in particular, I'd surely like help me."
COMMENT ON WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT THE APPEAL OF NASCAR
"From my point of view, it's obviously a tight driver market right now in Cup. It forces people to look outside the box. We've never been afraid to do that. Fortunately there was an opportunity here that myself and the world were unaware of until not too long ago, so these opportunities don't come along often, and I think when they do you have to seize the moment. Interestingly enough, a lot of questions I'm getting about it are things I haven't thought of yet. I think his life has changed a bit since I saw him last. He's married. He has a son. I think they have another child on the way. This series gives him an opportunity to be home on Sunday night. I'm just guessing here, but I think this gives him the ability to have some family life. In speaking with Juan, I learned the amount of miles they do each year in Formula 1 and the amount of time he spends testing, not in front of people,. He's saying that when you compare the mileage, it's kind of interesting because it's very close except most of the mileage in NASCAR is in front of people on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as opposed to testing all week in front of nobody in the middle of France. At the end of the day, Juan is about racing. One of the first things he said to me face-to-face at the airport when we finally got together. I began to ask him all these questions about NASCAR, and he said, 'hey, I want to race.' I think that's an important point. There's all this marketing and diversity and world appeal and all this stuff sort of swirls around, but what does it swirl around? I think at the center of all this is racing. He mentioned to me the closeness of the racing. I read somewhere on a clip here the past few days he said, 'you go side-by-side three inches or four inches apart for entire laps at 180-190 mph.'"
WHY DO YOU THINK THE PERCEPTIONS ABOUT NASCAR HAVE CHANGED SO QUICKLY?
"I had the same questions about NASCAR when I came from open wheel racing, and I've had nothing but open arms. They respect people who race and they respect people who have had success elsewhere. They welcome them with open arms. You've got to work and earn their respect, but I think they give you every opportunity to do that. I wouldn't call it a closed shop."
DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA HOW LONG IT MIGHT TAKE TO GET THE DETAILS OF JUAN'S RELEASE WORKED OUT? HOW MUCH TESTING WOULD YOU LIKE FOR JUAN TO DO BEFORE HE ENTERS HIS FIRST CUP RACE?
"In terms of time frame we're hoping we can get going on something here by the middle of August. In terms of what we'd like to see him do in the meantime, no matter what you do between the time you get started and the Daytona 500, I think when you get to the middle of February in Daytona you're going to say, 'I wish we had a few more days to try this or try that.' These race circuits each have their own little nuisances and you're going to constantly be questioning if you covered every base. So in terms of amount, I don't know if we could ever do enough and we'll always wish we had more time. We certainly want to get him in every type of track and every type of car we have."
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE ADAPTATION PROCESS WILL BE LIKE COMING FROM FORMULA ONE TO NASCAR?
"There are so many different things about the two series that are different. While they are both racing, you have different cars, different tracks, different types of drivers, different food, different accommodations, different parts of the country versus the world. NASCAR is a much more family-friendly atmosphere. I was reading in the paper this morning that Tony Stewart said a good thing about NASCAR drivers is they can laugh at themselves or whatever. I think the adaptation will take on a lot of different avenues if you will, on and off the track. These are all going to have to be managed and the expectation is going to have to be managed. The expectation of the driver from the team, the expectation of the fans from the driver, the expectation of the driver on the track -- a lot of expectations here are going to have to be managed, and we're all going to work hard to do that in our respective areas."
WHAT WOULD BE THE IDEAL WAY TO BRING JUAN ALONG?
"The best scenario would be if we had a year to prepare I guess and we could just go to all the tracks and go back to them and test and after we go to each one go back to them again and test. That isn't a reality situation. Road courses are down at the bottom of the list. It's about getting to know these cars and getting to understand the nuisances of the circuit and getting to understand the differences of a Bristol versus a Richmond versus a Martinsville versus a Charlotte versus a plate races and the differences in plate races from Daytona to Talladega. The good thing is you're talking about somebody who is used to racing at a high level with a high level of information. There's certainly a lot of information here that's going to be downloaded to Juan within the next six months, however that information is delivered, whether it's delivered on the track or delivered verbally, whether it's delivered during a test or during a race. The good news he's used to absorbing a lot on the information side, and there's certainly going to be a lot of it."
ELABORATE ON TIGHT DRIVER MARKET
"Let me just say one thing before I go along. Everybody keeps saying Chip Ganassi Racing. It's Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. I've seen that a lot this week in the press. Thanks for letting me get that out. The name of the team is Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, who also happens to be of Spanish speaking decent there in Cuba for those of you who don't know. Tight driver market, that's not a failure on anybody's part. It's not a tight driver market across the board. It's a tight driver market when you want good drivers, quality drivers who have the experience. That's what you're looking for. These days there are plenty of guys out there that can drive these cars, but can they do the job on the track? Can they do the job off the track? Can they have the maturity level to deal with all the scenarios they're going to be faced with throughout the season? These are the things the team owners are looking for these days. I wouldn't call it a failure on anybody's part. It's the way of the world these days, across the board in all formulas of racing. There's a good driver shortage, maybe that's how it should be phrased."
WILL THE NEW TESTING RULES HINDER YOU?
"Obviously most of the bigger teams I know of actually do test quite a bit at non-NASCAR venue tracks. I heard a rumor they were going to increase the number of tests and have one or two more tests. Again, it's going to be a wait and see kind of thing. One of the arguments I do have is that the testing rule in years past has been so tight. It does make it difficult if you have a driver that gets hurt or you're bringing in a new driver or whatever. NASCAR has always been fairly good at working with you on that kind of stuff. I'm certainly somebody that's pleased if there's going to be an increase in testing."
ELABORATE ON JUAN'S DEBUT
"Believe me as much of a surprise as this was to everyone in the media, it was just as much a surprise to everyone in our organization here in Charlotte. They're all scrambling putting different plans together and different scenarios. If Juan was able to drive tomorrow I think it would be an impossibility just because of the previous plans that are in place. I think it's important to keep in mind this isn't a start-up situation. We have plenty of plans in place for our current drivers and what they're scheduled to be doing."
Continued in part 2