Chevy Racing–New Hampshire–Juan Pablo Montoya

SEPTEMBER 20, 2013
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET/GILLETTE CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed going to IndyCar for Team Penske in 2014, finishing the season strong for his Earnhardt Ganassi team and other topics.  Full transcript:
TALK ABOUT YOUR DECISION TO RACE INDYCAR FOR TEAM PENSKE NEXT SEASON: “I was looking at all the choices, and when I started talking to Roger (Penske) about it, to tell you the truth, it was a no-brainer for me. I always loved open wheel (racing). That is my background. I had seven great years here, and still have nine more races with the Target car this year. When you get a chance to run for Roger, I wouldn’t turn that down.”
DID IT ALL HAPPEN PRETTY FAST? “Yes.  I was talking a lot to the No. 78 (Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet SS owned by Barney Visser), and they are great people and they work really hard. I think they have a really good team. There were a few conversations with Roger and Tim (Cindric, President, Penske Racing) about it, but they were pretty casual. They called me and asked if I could come up, and I said yes. That was it.”
SO IT DIDN’T TAKE YOU LONG TO MAKE THAT DECISION? “No. It is something I wanted to do. I have been lucky enough to race for Chip (Ganassi) in IndyCar, it is one of the best teams out there. I have run for Williams, McClaren, Mercedes, BMW (in Formula 1), I mean I have run for big teams, and the only one on the list that I hadn’t run and felt I always wanted to do was Roger’s.  If I could get some wins for him next year, I will be really excited.”
HOW DID IT GO WHEN CHIP FOUND OUT YOU WERE GOING TO GO DRIVE FOR ROGER? “To tell the truth, he was in Europe so I left him a voicemail and sent him a text. He seemed very genuinely happy about it.  I have always told people here, we are really good friends. We have a very good relationship. It is just going to make it more interesting and fun next year.”
HOW MUCH WILL YOU MISS DRIVING THE NASCAR STOCK CARS? “There are a lot of good people here, and we were looking at things for next year. But today the focus is still on this year in the Cup Series to finish the season. Then looking at the Penske thing into the future we’ll see if there is maybe some NASCAR races might come about. We’ll see.”
YOU ARE NOT RULING OUT COMING BACK HERE TO RACE SELECT RACES? “We’ll see. That is up to Roger and what he wants to do. We need to sit down and talk about that later. There are two focuses. One on the weekends is going to still be this. I still want to try and get the oval win for the guys. They have been working really hard, and we’ve been getting a lot better race cars. This is a place where we have run really well, so that is important.”
YOU HAVE SAID THAT YOUR TIME IN NASCAR HAS MADE YOU A SMARTER DRIVER. CAN YOU EXPLAIN A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THAT AND HOW IT MIGHT TRANSFER TO INDYCAR? “I think you learn so many things about the cars that you will never understand, or believe or see. There are a lot more basic things that you ignore in open wheel. I think it is pretty cool because I sat down with the guys the other day, and we talked a little bit about the cars. I talked to Will (Power) a little bit and understand more what the cars do. On YouTube I’ve been looking at a lot of videos and on-board cameras. It is fun because I know all the places.
“There are a lot of things to learn. And as I said the beginning of this week, it is going to be an uphill battle in a lot of ways, but I am looking forward to the challenge.”
WILL YOU CONSIDER IT UNFINISHED BUSINESS IF YOU DON’T GET THAT WIN ON AN OVAL BEFORE THE END OF THE SEASON? “It’s not over yet, so we’ll see. We are working really hard. I have a great group of guys here. They are fun to work with. They are determined and I am 100% behind them in these last races here.”
DOES WHERE YOU ARE GIVE YOU THE OPPORTUNITY TO USE DIFFERENT STRATEGIES TO GET THAT WIN? “We’ve been going that all year, believe me. We’ve been trying and have been close to paying off. But, we’re not there yet.”
ANY CONCERNS ABOUT SPONSORSHIP ISSUES FOR INDY NEXT YEAR? “No, not really. Roger took a leap of faith. I think they are the best team out there, at least one of the best.  They took a leap of faith on me, and I am taking a leap of faith on them. It’s all good.”
HOW HARD IS IT FOR A ONE-CAR OR TWO-CAR TEAM TO COMPETE AGAINST THE FOUR CAR, AND THE THREE-CAR REALLY BIG, STRONG TEAMS? “If you look at the champion (Brad Keselowski) from last year here (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) was from a two-car team. So it is all relative.”
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT IT ENOUGH TO KNOW WHAT YOU MIGHT MISS FROM HERE? “No, but I thought enough what I have missed in open wheel. Getting that opportunity was…I know Helio (Castroneves) really well. I met Will (Power) this week. I told them I am going to need their help a lot to get up to speed. I think it will be fun. I think I can bring a completely different aspect to the cars. I have a lot of open wheel experience, so it should be fun.”
HAVE YOU TALKED TO AJ ALLMENDINGER AT ALL AFTER HE HAD DRIVEN THE NO. 2 CAR THIS YEAR? “It is funny; I talked to AJ a lot about IndyCar this year and that was actually before I knew I would be in the No. 2. Everything happens for a reason.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT GETTING BACK TO INDIANAPOLIS? “We do that every year here, but going back to actually the 500 is a big deal. I know Roger hasn’t won it since ’09. I’m one-for-one there, so hopefully we can make it two-for-two. AJ did a really good job this year. If you watched the race, if he wouldn’t have had the problem with the seatbelt, he had a real shot at winning. You have to be there at the right place at the right time.”
WHAT HAS BEEN THE REACTION ON THE INDYCAR SIDE FROM OTHER DRIVERS?  TONY KANAAN? DARIO FRANCHITTI? HAS IT BEEN GOOD? “Yes, absolutely. They have all sent me texts. They all laugh. They all said they all knew sooner or later you would convert back. It is fun. It is fun because you learn a lot of different things. When you go to Europe, it is all about yourself and not about the team. You learn to be a team player over here. I think that is going to help us huge.”
IS IT GOING BACK TO YOUR ROOTS? “Yes, that is where I grew up and everything. I feel like I am a stock car driver as well. I’m open for anything. But right now, this Penske opportunity is golden.”
WHAT WERE YOUR IMMEDIATE FEELINGS WHEN IT WAS DONE AND FINALIZED? “I was jumping around. I felt like a five year-old kid.”
HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO ROGER? “The deal was actually done with Roger.”
IS THERE ANY WAY YOUR EXPERIENCE HERE HELPS YOU OVER THERE? “Absolutely. We talked about that already. But yes. You learn a lot of things, and understand a lot of things. The tire degradation here is so much more noticeable. Tire management is huge here. In open wheel, you do a little bit of that, but if you understand it better, it is going to pay off. There is a lot of pluses of being here these years. I don’t think that they are wasted years. I think that I learned a lot. I’m just looking forward to being in a winning car.”
DID YOU SERIOUSLY CONSIDER ANY OTHER NASCAR RIDES? “Absolutely. The No. 78. We talked about it. We actually were pretty close. When the Penske thing came about….”
SO THIS DOESN’T CLOSE THE DOOR ON ANY FUTURE NASCAR? “No, not at all. We talked to Roger a little bit about it. But today the focus is here, but at the moment and the next couple of months is getting up to speed in the car.”
HOW CLOSE WERE YOU TO SIGNING WITH THE NO. 78? “We were getting there.”
YOU WANT TO COME BACK AND RUN A FEW NASCAR RACES? ROAD COURSES? DAYTONA? “I think it would be fun. It would probably be with Roger if we did it. We’ll look at that in the future. We talked about it a little bit. But I am focusing at the moment of finishing this and then the Indy car.  I know what we need to do and that is goal at the moment.”
IS THERE A POSSIBILITY OF DOING THE MEMORIAL DAY DOUBLE? “I don’t know. You are asking the wrong guy…I think you are in the wrong hauler.”  (LAUGHS)
IS RUNNING THE DAYTONA 500 WITH ROGER SOMETHING YOU WOULD TALK ABOUT? “There is a little bit of talks, but not much. You have to understand the deal was announced four days ago. It was done in five. It is not like we had two months to talk about it. I talked a lot to the guys. I started looking at videos and stuff.  And that is all I have done so far.”
YOU AREN’T GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS CAR BEFORE END OF YEAR ARE YOU? “No, no. Target has been a great sponsor for me and the team. I am committed to them all the way to the end of the season.”
WHO WAS THE FIRST INDYCAR DRIVER TO SEND YOU A TEXT? “Helio. Then TK then Dario…then Scott (Dixon) the next day.”
WILL IT BE AWKWARD WITH YOU AND THE GANASSI INDYCAR BOYS SINCE YOU ARE GOING TO THE ENEMY CAMP? “I don’t see it as the enemy.  I won the championship with a lot of the guys that are still there. It will be fun. I have great friends there, and I still will. Just  driving a different car. And I will make news ones. It is what it is.”
AND CHIP WISHED YOU WELL? “Oh yes. As I said, he understands he made a decision not to have me here in his car next year, and I made a decision that I wanted to go back to open wheel. Roger gave me that opportunity.”
ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE SHORTER INDYCAR SCHEDULE? “Yes! That’s is another thing that is important. I want to have a little more time for myself and my family. Sebastian races now. If I want to run well, at the beginning of the season I will be more busy than I was here. I really want to make sure…I know I have an uphill battle and I think the first few races are going to be hard while I figure everything out. It will be fine.”
AT MICHIGAN YOU SAID YOU JUST WANTED TO GET IN A WINNING RACE CAR: “And I got my wish didn’t I?  And I said that, and it was true. I wanted to have the best opportunity to win races, and Roger gave me that.”
INAUDIBLE QUESTION: “IndyCar all the while. Think about it. 2000 probably. I drove Formula 1 for six years. I have been driving open wheel since ’92 through 2006.”
HAVE YOU DONE ANY SORT OF TESTING? THOSE CARS HAVE CHANGED SO MUCH: “No (to testing). Remember one of the good things about it is that when I drove them, they were sequential, manually sequential gearbox. Now they are paddle shift like the F1 (car) was. It is actually…I would say…easier than it used to be. You know when you had a six speed manual and you had to go from sixth gear to first gear, one at a time; that was a lot of work. This is click click click (makes a noise with his tongue). You know. I hadn’t even thought about the push-to-pass yet.  There are a lot of things I am going to learn and a lot of mistakes I am going to do with the push-to-pass; not using it or over using it and stuff. We’ll learn and I think the more I look at videos and prepare myself for the race, the better I am going to be
“It’s cool to have data on the weekends. Proper data. Look at suspension. Look at everything. Look at how I am driving the car. If I have the data, it makes my life easier. I can just look at everything they are doing, and give it a try. See what happens.”