Chevy Racing–IndyCar–Juan Pablo Montoya

JULY 18, 2014


JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 2 HAWK PERFORMANCE TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET V6 INDYCAR, met with members of the media today in Toronto to discuss returning to Toronto, riding the momentum of winning at Pocono and adjusting to cold tires in the Verizon IndyCar Series. FULL TRANSCRIPT:

YOU COMPETED IN CART IN 1999 AND 2000. HOW HAPPY ARE YOU TO BE BACK? “I would say so. It’s funny because in the second year, the race lasted two corners and Dario (Franchitti) T-boned me down in the hairpin on the first lap. That was interesting back then. (The track) seems OK. Yesterday when we did the ride-around in the golf cart, it looked really bumpy. But it’s a smoother ride in the race car than the golf cart. There are some big bumps, especially into Turn 1. That’s a place where you really notice the bumps and they can bother you. And it’s a little bit (bumpy) into Turn 8 but apart from that it’s pretty good.”

HOW CAN THE WIN AT POCONO HELP YOU AT A DIFFERENT TRACK BUT KNOWING YOU’VE ALREADY WON IN THE SERIES? “Pocono was good. Iowa was just as good. We were fastest in practice but had a huge moment in qualifying and had to go through the field. I went through most of it and got to like seventh before the rear wing end-plate broke or delaminated or something. We went a lap down and then I had to go through the field just to stay on the lead lap. Then I got my lap back and had to go through the field again only to get taken out by (Ed) Carpenter.”

ABOUT CONTACT WITH ED CARPENTER AT IOWA: “Yeah, he talked to me and said, ‘I apologize. It’s completely my fault. They (the team) told me you were there and I didn’t think you were. So I turned.’ So I guess the spotter was right. I don’t know… you know the problem with this car is a lot of the gain in the ovals is taking all the air out of the guy behind you. You have to be smart how you do it. It’s OK to do it if the guy isn’t there. But if you see the guy there and you dive down into him… (Josef) Newgarden did the same thing. I talked to IndyCar because in the Newgarden incident, I got on the brakes and I still didn’t hit him. But they said, ‘But yeah, he was close but never touched.’ But I said I was close because I was on the brakes. I got all the way into the grey trying not to crash because he cut in front of me. So how did that work? It’s a hard judgment. If you look at the big ovals like Indy, there’s no room to run two-by-two. But at a place where you have two grooves, you can run side-by-side and the straights are so short.. if someone is inside you, you have to give them the room. They asked me how to you solve that in NASCAR? When you turn down on someone they’re just gonna wreck you. Here you don’t have a bumper. I wouldn’t have minded having a bumper (at Iowa).”

THERE HAS BEEN A LONG STRETCH OF RACES BUT YOU WERE USED TO THAT IN NASCAR. IS THERE A RHYTHM YOU HAVE TO GET INTO TO DO THIS WEEK IN AND WEEK OUT? “The car is a lot more physical but to be honest it’s not that bad. Iowa feels like it was a month ago to me. I went from Iowa to Salt Lake City to see my son racing. I was with him then took a redeye one night to New York and flew here yesterday. I haven’t really been home but anywhere you’re coming from it’s hard. But I think it’s good to have all these back-to-back races really close because it gets the name of IndyCar out there. When they are too spread apart and don’t have enough races, you lose the message. So I think this is a good thing and a smart way to go about racing.”

INAUDIBLE. “Everyone is saying they have next weekend off and I’m running the Brickyard. They told me this morning… I found out that it’s next weekend! They asked me about the Brickyard and I said it’s a month away. They said ‘no, it’s next weekend!’ I pay a lot of attention.”

AFTER POCONO WHEN YOU WON, YOU SET YOUR SIGHTS ON POSSIBLY CONTENDING FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP. EVEN THOUGH IOWA HAPPENED AND YOU LOST SOME POINTS…“We didn’t lose as many as we could have lost. But we didn’t gain any. That’s OK. It’s racing. You have to take it as it comes. Knowing how the championship is doesn’t change how I race. Accidents can happen. Honestly I was glad that I went I hit the wall that it didn’t feel as bad as I thought it was going to feel. When I saw it coming I was thinking, ‘Oh hell no…this is going to hurt.” But then it happened and it wasn’t too bad.”

HOW ARE YOUR STREET COURSE EXPECTATIONS? “It’s getting better. That was our biggest concern. In the previous street courses, we really struggled on Fridays. Today, we were like 10th most of the first practice and then but new tires on too late so I couldn’t get a lap in. But I think we’re pretty good. It’s weird. We’ve had quite a bit of braking issues. Sometimes you put on the brakes and the car pulls to the right and everything. It is what they give you. It’s kind of hard.”

ON QUOTES ABOUT HELPING OTHER COLOMBIAN DRIVERS: “I said this in a Columbian interview and I got in trouble for saying I wasn’t going to help. But it’s true. We run for different teams. If you want help, you can come and ask for help. But I’m not going to run around and say, ‘You’re really screwing up there.’ Or ‘Looking at your car, you need to run a lot more front wing.’ I can’t. What people have to understand that what comes first are your teammates. Like Carlos (Huertas) really struggles on ovals. If I can help him, I help him. But I cannot tell him he needs to run different front springs, you need to run different this and that… I can’t… say your car won’t turn because your front geometry is wrong. To be honest, with this car is so tight and you’re so limited to what you can do. It all comes down to setup. You can’t give anything away. It’s really hard. If the cars were different… I actually help more than what I should honestly.”

“In the first year, I really struggled and was off the pace. The second year I had to drive over my head to get a good qualifying time. Then we got taken out. It feels OK now. I think my driving style doesn’t suit this track at all. It’s a place that has a bunch of concrete patches and the patches have zero grip… Even today I felt like I was doing a decent job. But it’s the same thing. I guess I could be smarter and drive around the problems better so I think that helps. But back in the day, I drove the wheels off the car and drove it hard. I came here, the harder I drove it the slower I went.”

“I felt I was quicker than Will (Power) in practice. He put on tires there at the end. Helio seems a little better. If you look at my best sectors, I struggle in Turn 1… 1, 5 and 10 are my worst corners. Everywhere else I’m as good or better than them. It’s funny. We all want to help each other. But you can tell at this point of the season that the help is starting to become reduced. When we went to St. Petersburg, it was like, ‘You have to brake here, you have turn here, you want to use that…’ Like at Turn 1, I went to Will after practice and asked how he does it. He looked at me and was like, ‘You were quick. Don’t worry.’ If the questions are asked, the answers are there. At Turn 9 where I thought it was my worst corner before practice, I saw Kanaan go through there and I thought, ‘Oh’. So I tried it and was quicker through there. We’re like kids. This is one of the cool things about this. We all work really hard and push each other but this is like racing with your brothers.”

HAVE YOU BEEN SURPRISED BY THE COMPETITIVENESS OF THIS SERIES, ESPECIALLY THE ROOKIES? “It’s hard because the cars are so evenly matched that as a big team, you’re limited to what you can do anyway. Where were we… Long Beach this year and Will qualified 12th and he said ‘That was my worst qualifying ever!’ Then he went to Houston and qualified 18th. So it shows it can happen to anyone. It’s amazing. One of the harder things is that even though I know what the red tires are going to do, how they’re going to come in, I have no idea. Is it the first lap or is it the third lap? When the lap is really short, you don’t have a lot of time to get the tires up to speed by the time you get to the timing beacon. How do you plan on it? Sometimes you get it right and when you it wrong you start at the back. The other cool this is having standing starts. I think that should be standard on all street courses. It’s good for the fans and it’s a hell of show.”

ARE TIRES THE MOST DIFFICULT THING FOR YOU COMING BACK TO INDYCAR? “Getting used to cold tires again is hard. In NASCAR you don’t have tire warmers but the cars are so heavy that on the first corners they are there. You don’t even have to think about warming them. So I hadn’t worked on cold tires since 2000. You could do it once a year in GRAND-AM at Daytona. It was hard. I threw the car off in practice my second or third year there. I went out on cold tires went through the first corner got in the gas… and it wasn’t even close. If you look at my out laps, they seem to be pretty good. I think I’m one of the better guys on cold tires but I still feel like I have a lot of room to improve, which is good. An example today is that I know we put on tires too late and I know about being conservative going out because the grip isn’t there. But there’s no point in throwing the car out in the first practice because you were too late on cold tires. So you take it as it comes.”

“I don’t know. I think it’s wider. There is a lot of room on that straight.”

“The hard thing is that it’s hard to get on the gas out of Turn 1 because of the concrete. They need to grind it a think. I think if they did that a little bit, it would pick up a ton of grip in that place. It would look the same but right now the concrete very smooth. It’s like aqua-planing every time you go through.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO WIN HERE AT TORONTO? “That is the goal every weekend. Put importance on it, I don’t think it is the correct way to think about it. It is just executing in every session, and putting yourself in a position to have a chance to win it.”

HOW HARD IS THAT TO RACE AGAINST YOUR TEAMMATE (HELIO CASTRONEVES) IN THE POINT STANDINGS, OR DOES IT EVEN ENTER THE EQUATION? “I’m sure it enters your mind if you truly are racing your teammate when it comes down to it. Obviously the boss (Roger Penske) doesn’t want to see two cars in the tires racing hard, but it is actually a good problem to have. Two Penske cars fighting for a championship is a good thing, and then you have Juan (Pablo Montoya) who is pretty close behind. It is new for me, but it is what it is.”

DO YOU GET ANNOYED WHEN MEDIA SAYS YOU ARE TOO AGGRESSIVE? CAN YOU BE TOO AGGRESSIVE AND BE A RACE CAR DRIVER? “If you are crashing every week, you are too aggressive. If you have an incident every now and then, I think that is probably the right balance. Do I get annoyed? I don’t care what people think. You’ve got to drive the way you know how, and the best way. I just race the way I know how to race. I don’t particularly think of being too aggressive. The only incident that I actually felt that I maybe should have been penalized was the one at Long Beach with (Simon) Pagenaud. Apart from that, it’s been fine.”

TEAM PENSKE IS ONE-TWO IN POINTS, AND NOW MONTOYA IS COMING UP, WINS AT POCONO? IS THAT GOOD FOR YOU AS ONE OF THOSE THREE DRIVERS, OR WOULD YOU RATHER BE IN FIRST PLACE, WITH THAT GUYS BEHIND YOU? “Of course you would rather be in first place, and have those guys back. If you can have a big points lead, and have people behind, that’s always good. But that’s not the reality. The reality right now is what it is. Just keep executing; keep getting the most out of everything.”

IS THE TEAM FOCUSED EQUALLY ON THE THREE OF YOU – 33, 33, 33? “Yes, absolutely. 33.3333333 reoccurring…but yes….of course. Absolutely! They definitely are not a team that has any favoritism. They don’t have team orders. Roger loves racing; he loves racing hard. That’s the team it is.”

IS IT AT THE POINT IN THE SEASON WHERE, WHETHER YOU WANT TO OR NOT, THAT YOU HAVE TO START THINKING ABOUT POINTS? “Yes. You have to race smart. You’ve got to be smart in every situation from start to finish. And, that smartest person wins. Fastest person wins, I think (SMILES).”

HELIO CASTRONEVES, NO. 3 PPG AUTOMOTIVE REFINISH TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET: HOW IS YOUR HAND? “It is healing. It is a slow process, unfortunately. Nothing that the doctors or anybody can do. It’s ligaments that got stretched too much, and now it is going to take six months to 12 months. All the drivers go through that unfortunately especially when we get caught in the scenario I did with the steering wheel. But, this is not affecting the performance at all.”
YOU FINISHED SECOND HERE LAST YEAR, YOUR BEST FINISH EVER IN TORONTO, WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE TO GET THE EXTRA STEP ON PODIUM? “I feel this place owes me. We start on the pole, we finish second. We’ve finished all over the place. Consistency. This place always helps a lot in terms of strategy. People in the back sometimes take chances, and they end up paying off. It all depends. We can only try and predict the unpredictable. So, hopefully we start in the front, stay in the front if the race goes that way, and hopefully collect a lot of points. To get a win, we are right now going in the right direction. The car seems to have a good setup starting out of the box. We don’t have much practice before qualifying so, it is important to start the car spot-on and hopefully will give us a big break.”

YOU ARE NINE POINTS AHEAD OF WILL (POWER) AND IN A VERY TIGHT BATTLE WITH HIM. WHAT IS IT LIKE RACING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP AGAINST YOUR TEAMMATE? “It’s a good problem to have for the team because that is what you want to have. You want to have at least two chances, not only one. We both just have to understand each other that is a great opportunity for us to give a championship to Roger (Penske), and we’ve got ot make it happen. Whether it is my day, or his day, we have to understand that. And hopefully so far, that is what we are doing.”

THOUGHTS ON RYAN HUNTER-REAY, HE HAS BEEN STAYING CLOSE TO YOU GUYS: “We can’t control what they are doing. We can only to try to do the best we can with our team, and hopefully with that, finishing ahead of him, we are going to be in a good shape.”

IS THIS THE POINT IN THE SEASON WHERE POINTS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WINNING? “At five laps to go, it depends on who is in front of you. The problem is, these races we’re talking about a double header, then one race which goes for 100 points. When you see that, it’s hard for you to manage that much. You will still be able to, but it is hard for you play it safe at this time with six races to go. Sounds like not a lot when you say six races to go, but the points involved – it’s a lot. With that aspect, not that I don’t look ahead, but you have to push to make sure you finish ahead of those that are important. It’s not like if you finish behind a guys that is chasing you for the championship, you’re going to be okay. That’s managing. No, you have to actually still save for a rainy day in case that something bad happens, you have enough to cover for the last race.”

HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT THAT CHAMPIOINSHIP? “More than anything. More than anything.”