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NASCAR Teleconference: An interview with Juan Pablo Montoya
Moderator: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to a special edition of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series teleconference. We're hosting it today from the series final test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. We're incorporating media via phone and at the infield media center.
Juan will make his NASCAR Nextel Cup debut next season in the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge for Chip Ganassi Racing. He's in the midst of his first series test. Ganassi announced yesterday he will make NASCAR Busch Series debut October 28th at Memphis Motorsports Park.
Juan, what have you learned thus far here at Homestead?
Juan Pablo Montoya: Well, I think it's - generally to say I think it's been a good test for me. Yesterday was my first day in the Texaco/Havoline Dodge car. It's been pretty hard, you know, for the team. It was really hard. They had eight cars here. To have so many Cup cars the first time they do it, it was a little bit of hard work getting everything together.
It was good. I took it pretty easy yesterday, more learning, working with the car, getting used to the track and everything. I think everything went pretty smooth. I couldn't really get a good balance in the car or anything close. I'm glad we got a second day here.
It's a lot harder than what it looks, this track. I was, for example, testing Kentucky. Kentucky is more complicated. Like you look at the layout of the track, it looks more harder than this. This is actually harder. With the heat, it makes it really slippery out there.
Moderator: We'll go straight to some questions for you.
Q.: What has been the most surprising thing for you so far in your transition from Formula One to NASCAR?
Juan Pablo Montoya: How comfortable I am in the car. You know, I thought it was going - there's always a concern how comfortable I'm going to be in an enclosed car. Yes, I've driven a couple of those 12 years ago, but the level of these cars compared with then is night and day. I've actually really been comfortable in it. I get in it. I get up to speed pretty easy. So far this has been the hardest test for me, this Cup test. When I did the ARCA testing, you have spoilers that are a lot bigger than this one, the car is more forgiving. It's learning how far you can go with the car. That's probably been the hardest thing to learn in this car.
But comfortable, I've been really comfortable in it. It's been really good.
Q.: Busch Series will be stopping in Montreal in August of 2007. You know the circuit. Are you looking forward to this race?
Juan Pablo Montoya: Well, I don't even know if I'm doing it (laughter). I'm honest with you. I would have an advantage with everybody, but at the same time last time I went around that place was in a Formula One car. If we're going to do the same circuit in a Busch car, you know, it would be a bit shocking for me because the braking distances and everything. It's like when we did the cars with Jeff Gordon, it was crazy how different you had to drive the two cars.
Yes, I know how the layout of the track is. But first of all, I don't even know if I'm going. Do you know? I have no idea.
Juan Pablo Montoya: I think they should. You know, I think in Europe NASCAR is not regarded as high as it should. You know, I think people don't know what it is exactly, how competitive it is. They're used to Formula One where the technology is extreme. But the crazy thing here is how limited the rules are for technology, how far they go with the cars. If you would bring an engineer from like Formula One and show them how detailed the cars are they would be shocked. When you look at them on TV, they all look very alike. But when you look at them, it's like yesterday, the two cars Casey was driving and mine were all three different. I was with a couple of friends. I said, Show me any difference. They couldn't.
The cars, even me, I'm driving them, I don't even see the difference yet. Oh, that spoiler is more to the right. Is it? Yeah, you got to look here. Oh. Then you learn to see how the cars are.
I think myself being here is going to make it more serious, going to make it more known internationally. I think it should. I think it's a great sport. I think it's great that it's so based on the fans. We give so much to the fans that it's amazing.
Q.: Obviously you live here. This is a huge market for you. Is there any reason you could not make your Cup debut here this year or race the Busch Series race at the end of the year?
Juan Pablo Montoya: I don't know. There's so many things we thinking at the moment to do, maybe do this, maybe do that. You know, we go to Memphis, see what happens in Memphis. Then we'll say, Okay, do we go to the next one or do more testing? What do we want to do?
I think we have to take it as it comes. Whatever we decide, whether it's to race here or not, is not because I want to do my debut here, is because it is the next right step for me. Let's say if I would do a Cup race this year and let's say we're going to do it here, we're not even close to the point we know what we're going to do yet. It wouldn't be because it is here, it's because it's the next right step going to Daytona.
The main focus is getting myself and the Texaco team ready for next year when we go to Daytona.
Q.: What has been your (indiscernible) NASCAR moment so far?
Juan Pablo Montoya: I tell you, things that shocked me so far, great shocks, I'll give you an easy example. Yesterday Kevin Harvick came to the team. He said, You know, looking at the car from behind, I think the car is too low on the left. I think this and that. He was actually - he came and said, I think you should try this here, do that. At the same time, Casey Mears came to me and said they did that. Both Casey and Rick got in my car yesterday and they ran my car.
You know, we don't do that in Europe. If you see somebody struggling in Formula One, you never going to go and say, You're making this wrong. You actually go to your guys and you say, You see what they're doing wrong (laughter)?
I think it's great to see. I think it's great to see how competitive it is out there when it comes down to business and how casual it is back here. It's a great atmosphere.
Q.: Is there kind of a snob attitude in Europe towards NASCAR?
Juan Pablo Montoya: No. I think it's more of an unknown because they don't show it. They show it, but not a lot. If you don't know something about something, people are not going to regard it as anything because as it's not shown, people don't see it, don't follow it that much. It's hard to say this is right, that's wrong.
When I came from CART to Formula One, they said, 'You did great on road course, but those ovals were a waste of time. Those are easy.'
The road courses are easy. The ovals are the hard bit. The ovals, you know, for a person like me that grew up in road courses, the road courses, you know, you go left, right, down, up, whatever you want. For me it's pretty straightforward. You put me in an oval, it's a different story.
In a road course, there's one brake line. There's one way to make a corner, that's it. You'll see everybody will go through the same place. Here, yesterday, there were probably four race lines here, maybe five. People running high, people running against the line. One group, two group, the group helps the car turn. Wow, there's so much things. There's so much little detail to learn.
You know, when you do open-wheel in an oval, you're going so fast, the grip level factor is so much higher that there's a lot of things you miss, where here, you know, they told me the seams between the grooves, if you put your car there, it's actually going to help the car turn. It's like, What! There's so many things that can help make the car tighter, looser.
I think the fuel run here as the car changes so much makes the car very, very critical to drive. You know, they tell you you need to start really loose. Testing here, you really notice it. You go out there, you have a good car for two, three laps, it starts getting tight. Just the car doesn't turn. It doesn't want to turn any more. You need to find ways to make it turn, going a little bit lower. If it's really tight, run really high.
I haven't done that. When I ran in ovals here, it was one, maybe two race lines. These guys go all the way up to the wall. Whew, I'm trying to get the handle of it. Some runs when the car is not really good, I'd rather stay out there and go up high, learn how high you can run. I think I'm running really high. You see Junior, he's going three cars higher than me. It's like, Wow! That's hard.
The confidence to get up there and know the car is going to turn. The speed is so much higher than if you're going tighter. I'm not going to go out there and say I'm going to be quick. I need to go out there and run for a hundred laps before even I get comfortable.
Q.: Have you ever felt you haven't had like the time to maybe learn and make mistakes because of your background, people are expecting too much out of you right away?
Juan Pablo Montoya: Well, it's what I said to everybody. Probably a lot of people - there's probably two bunches: some bunch are the ones I want to do really well, there are a bunch probably expecting that I struggle.
For me, I'm here for the long run whether they like it or not. Do I want to succeed? Of course, I want to succeed. Is it going to be easy? No. Am I going to have good races? Hopefully yes. Am I going to have bad races? Definitely yes. It's part of it.
I'm going to go to some tracks, the car is going to be really good, comfortable, going to be really competitive. We're going to go to other tracks and we may going to have to use a provisional. That's all part of the learning process. I think you need to work really closely with the people around you, with your teammates and stuff, to make sure you always in the right position. When things are going wrong, you need to learn to fix them fast. You don't have a lot of time to qualify. You have, what, an hour practice, two hours of practice before qualifying? That's tough.
If you going and the car is good, hey, you are in business. If you going, you can't even get into the corners, then you going to have a long day. But that's what it's all about, coming to the pits, the car is feeling like that, then my crew chief understands what I'm talking about so he can fix it quicker.
Q.: Is there any key area or big area that you would identify as maybe the most frustrating, maybe the most problematic for you at this point in this process?
Juan Pablo Montoya: There's so many tools to make the car right or wrong that it's really hard. I think in Formula One, once the car is like setting, you pretty much - you're very close in setup everywhere you go. Here, because the ovals are so different, the cars are so different.
When you take a Formula One car, everything is made out of molds, where here it's welded. The guy put more welding on it for some reason, the car is stiffer, maybe a little bit heavier. All the cars, they try to make them as close as possible, but they never going to be identical. You see these guys, he run this car for the last six races, he won five of them. He just loves that car. You don't see that in Formula One. Formula One, whatever car you get in, they all handle the same way. That's hard.
At the same time you can make the car really good, you can make it really bad really easy. I've noticed so far. We just learning. We just learning, trying things. We try to do little steps at a time.
Yes, the car was really tight all day yesterday. You make a big change and put the car in the wall? I rather do more miles and do small steps. Any time can go in the wall. You want to try to prevent that because it's going to shorten your running time.
It's one against the other. Yeah, push really hard because you want to go fast, but don't put it in the wall because you going to lose a lot of time.
It's just part of the learning process, I guess.
Q.: In your past life, you should be in Brazil this weekend. Any sadness in you that you're not going to be there to defend your two race victories? Will you be watching anything at all in Memphis?
Juan Pablo Montoya: This weekend is - I don't even know? I'll be in Colombia this weekend. I got this weekend off. I'm going tonight to Colombia for a couple days to rest.
No, not really, to be honest. In Formula One, you never - you won here, next year it's a different year. You never think about, I won here the last two years, I'm going to do it three in a row. It's just a different race, different year, different deal.
Q.: You tested in Memphis a week ago. Can you tell me how that test went and what you learned about the track during your test.
Juan Pablo Montoya: I learned that it was a really small racetrack. It killed the tires. It was really hard on the tires. I don't know. It's a difficult racetrack. It's a tricky racetrack.
If I had to pick to say where I wanted to do my first Busch race, I wouldn't pick that one. Put it that way. That's where we're going. That's where it is.
It's a short track. It's a hard track. I don't know. I run there pretty good, I thought. We run with Stremme about the same pace. I think pace-wise, I wasn't bad. You know, I think the Iowa had - even there were a lot of slow cars, you could run high, low. Here I think is more of one race line. Everybody wants to run in the bottom, that's it. I think you're going to get bumped around, moved around. It's going to be I think a bit of a shock.
But, you know, I'm out there to learn. Hopefully we can bring the car home with more pieces than the last time (laughter).