NASCAR News

Q and A with Juan Montoya and Chip Ganassi

 

July 12, 2006

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Montoya speaks while Ganassi listens
Dodge

COMMENT ON BIG WEEKEND AT CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY ďIt was certainly a big weekend for us. We have little momentum now and we look forward to increasing that momentum as well.Ē

WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR JUAN PABLO NOW IN 2006? ďWe all read yesterday and heard the news that McLaren and Ron Dennis had released Juan. Interestingly as Iím 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 heís going to be released to do some testing? Is he going to be released to do some racing? Weíre still walking through the mechanics of that. Iím sure thereís 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 thereís still some paperwork thatís probably being exchanged right now. I certainly donít want to speak for him or McLaren, but I would characterize it as while he was certainly released thereís probably going to be some kind of conditional release.Ē

WHAT IS JUAN PABLO BRINGING TO YOUR TEAM? ďI 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 Iíve been working on it since he did leave the team. Maybe weíve 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 havenít really given that whole Hispanic thing a thought yetÖ. What I want to do, I want to win races. Weíve always had great drivers available to us to drive and this sort of says what our team is doing is right and the way weíre going about it is right. So he brings some validation as well I think.Ē

HOW DID YOU PRESENT JUAN PABLO TO YOUR SPONSOR? COULD YOU COMMENT ON HOW THEIR DEMOGRAPHICS MATCH HIS APPEAL? ďIn how their demographic matches his appeal, that  is something youíll have to ask them. Iím into racing. Iím not into the demographics of major corporations. The interesting thing is Juan Pablo is sponsored by Mobil in Formula 1 and heís under very, very strict rules about what he can say and what he canít 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 wouldnít 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. Theyíre very, very excited, obviously. Theyíre 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.Ē

COULD JUAN PABLO RACE ONE OF YOUR CARS AT WATKINS GLEN? ďWhen we get the details of his release, what we can and canít do, weíll 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.Ē

HAVE YOU TALKED TO JUAN PABLO ABOUT HOW HE MAY BE TREATED IN NASCAR? ďThere are going to be people that accept him, and Iím sure there will be people that donít. Itís like that in any endeavor, any time thereís change. Everybody likes change as long as it doesnít 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 secondsÖ The guy has got an infectious personality No. 1 and No. 2, you realize he gets it about racing. I donít have any problem with him being accepted, being nudged around on the track. Iím sure people will try him on for size, but thatís all part of it. Iím sure heíll earn their respect on the track, and Iím sure heíll have everyoneís respect off the track as well.Ē

DO YOU SEE NASCAR AS BEING THE TOP RACING SERIES IN THE FUTURE? ďThatís an interesting question. For many years here in the United States thereís 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, thereís a huge, huge amount of interest in the NASCAR arena from sponsors, from drivers, from teams. It only continues to grow. Iím not someone who keeps score on whatís the biggest racing series in the world or whatís the most popular or whatever. I look at it from a racing point of view. I like being involved in racing. Itís my business. Itís my job, and I love it. I have a lot of passion for it. I have a lot of interest in it, but itís for other people to decide which is the biggest one in the world or whatís the most interesting one. You have to say there is a lot of interest in NASCAR with people in the United States. Weíll have to see if that expands.Ē

COMMENT ON MEXICAN DRIVER LUIS DIAZ ďLuis is obviously at the top of his sport in the country of Mexico now. Probably the premiere driver in the country, and weíre fortunate to have him in our sports car team, and I look forward to working with him for years to come.Ē

HOW LONG DO YOU THINK ITíLL TAKE JUAN PABLO TO BECOME COMPETITIVE IN CUP? ďI can only go off of my past experience. Heís shown to pick up new tricks pretty quickly even though heís not an old dog, so I donít see that as a major challenge. A lot of times in these Cup cars itís the things you donít do as opposed to things you have to do. With his racing experience he knows the things you have to do. I think itís a question of a pretty long list of things you donít 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 doníts of a Cup car. A couple of these retired guys, one in particular, Iíd surely like help me.Ē

COMMENT ON WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT THE APPEAL OF NASCAR ďFrom my point of view, itís obviously a tight driver market right now in Cup. It forces people to look outside the box. Weíve 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 donít come along often, and I think when they do you have to seize the moment. Interestingly enough, a lot of questions Iím getting about it are things I havenít thought of yet. I think his life has changed a bit since I saw him last. Heís 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. Iím 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,. Heís saying that when you compare the mileage, itís kind of interesting because itís 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, Ďhey, I want to race.í I think thatís an important point. Thereís 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, Ďyou go side-by-side three inches or four inches apart for entire laps at 180-190 mph.í Ē

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PERCEPTIONS ABOUT NASCAR HAVE CHANGED SO QUICKLY? ďI had the same questions about NASCAR when I came from open wheel racing, and Iíve 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. Youíve got to work and earn their respect, but I think they give you every opportunity to do that. I wouldnít call it a closed shop.Ē

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA HOW LONG IT MIGHT TAKE TO GET THE DETAILS OF JUANíS RELEASE WORKED OUT? HOW MUCH TESTING WOULD YOU LIKE FOR JUAN TO DO BEFORE HE ENTERS HIS FIRST CUP RACE? ďIn terms of time frame weíre hoping we can get going on something here by the middle of August. In terms of what weíd 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 youíre going to say, ĎI wish we had a few more days to try this or try that.í These race circuits each have their own little nuisances and youíre going to constantly be questioning if you covered every base. So in terms of amount, I donít know if we could ever do enough and weíll always wish we had more time. We certainly want to get him in every type of track and every type of car we have.Ē

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE ADAPTATION PROCESS WILL BE LIKE COMING FROM FORMULA ONE TO NASCAR? ďThere 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 Ė a lot of expectations here are going to have to be managed, and weíre all going to work hard to do that in our respective areas.Ē

WHAT WOULD BE THE IDEAL WAY TO BRING JUAN ALONG? ďThe 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 isnít a reality situation. Road courses are down at the bottom of the list. Itís 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 youíre talking about somebody who is used to racing at a high level with a high level of information. Thereís certainly a lot of information here thatís going to be downloaded to Juan within the next six months, however that information is delivered, whether itís delivered on the track or delivered verbally, whether itís delivered during a test or during a race. The good news heís used to absorbing a lot on the information side, and thereís certainly going to be a lot of it.Ē

ELABORATE ON TIGHT DRIVER MARKET ďLet me just say one thing before I go along. Everybody keeps saying Chip Ganassi Racing. Itís Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Iíve 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 donít know. Tight driver market, thatís not a failure on anybodyís part. Itís not a tight driver market across the board. Itís a tight driver market when you want good drivers, quality drivers who have the experience. Thatís what youíre 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 theyíre going to be faced with throughout the season? These are the things the team owners are looking for these days. I wouldnít call it a failure on anybodyís part. Itís the way of the world these days, across the board in all formulas of racing. Thereís a good driver shortage, maybe thatís how it should be phrased.Ē

WILL THE NEW TESTING RULES HINDER YOU? ďObviously 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, itís 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 youíre bringing in a new driver or whatever. NASCAR has always been fairly good at working with you on that kind of stuff. Iím certainly somebody thatís pleased if thereís going to be an increase in testing.Ē

ELABORATE ON JUANíS DEBUT ďBelieve 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. Theyíre 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 itís important to keep in mind this isnít a start-up situation. We have plenty of plans in place for our current drivers and what theyíre scheduled to be doing.Ē

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (2007 Driver No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)

WAS THE POPULARITY OF NASCAR A REASON YOU MADE THE CHANGE? ďI think the popularity of the sport is very important. I think in America NASCAR is huge, especially if you come here and spend a month between the two races and you see how much is involved in NASCAR. Itís huge and for me to be able to come here and work with NASCAR with the diversity program and bringing new fans into the sport and help promote the sport, I think itís a huge thing. Weíre all going to benefit out of this deal. The reason I made the decision is about how great the racing is. The main reason I made the switch is because I think the racing is great.Ē

WHY DO YOU THINK PERCEPTIONS ABOUT NASCAR HAVE CHANGED SO QUICKLY? ďI think a lot of people are scared of making switches and itís a big switch. The change from open wheel racing to a Cup car is so big. A lot of people are scared of making the switch, but Iíve been so welcomed and Iíve got to thank everybody for making me feel so welcome around the garage. I think a lot of people think, Ďoh, I can be welcome, too.í I think thatís a lot of it.Ē

IS WATKINS GLEN A PLACE YOU MIGHT HAVE YOUR EYE ON TO START AND FEEL COMFORTABLE? ďNo, at the moment the main focus with Chip is getting to know everybody and finalizing everything with McLaren and see where we start. Itís good the way both parties on Sunday night, great for you, great for me. McLaren, Mercedes and Dodge, itís the same company. Itís all DaimlerChrysler, so in a way Iím still part of the family and itís great. Am I thinking about starting early at Watkins Glen? I donít think so. Itís not so important whatís going to be my first race. For me itís getting to know the cars, getting ready for next year. What really matters is the season ahead next year, not this year.Ē

DISCUSS EXPECTATIONS FOR NEXT SEASON ďA lot of people are going to have their eyes, expecting what Iím going to do in the first few years. One reason Chip and I decided to do a long term deal was itís going to take time. Jeff Gordonís comments were with time he was sure I can do well. Iím not expecting to be right out of the box winning races or anything like that. Itís a long learning curve. Iíve had that question before about a road course. Iím sure I could do well on a road course, but thereís two races against 36. There are 34 races on ovals and two races on road courses. I think road courses are a very minority of the whole picture.Ē

DISCUSS TECHNICAL ADJUSTMENTS YOUíRE GOING TO MAKE TO BECOME A NASCAR DRIVER ďBumping is one of them, getting used to people hitting you from behind. Is it a friendly push? What is a friendly push and what is not? Getting used to running side-by-side with a car beside you for 20 laps or 100 laps. Thatís very important learning when to draft, learning when to move out of the draft, learning when to go high and when to go low. When I raced CART before people used to go high, but I was watching a replay of the Daytona race and Chicago race, these guys run so close to the wall itís not even funny. Thatís going to take a lot of practice. I know the team is going to be very patient with me. Itís going to take time and weíre all in it together for the long run.Ē

WILL YOU FEEL PRESSURE TO PERFORM WELL IMMEDIATELY? ďItís going to take time. Itís such a big deal. I wasnít really expecting it to be such a big deal. Iím really happy with the change I made, with the choice I made. People are going to be watching closely, so I think itís very important to be well prepared. I think we need to be well prepared. If we decide to do a race or two at the end of the year, whatever Chip decides to do, I think we need to be prepared. It doesnít matter how good I do this year. The important thing is how we do next year. The focus is getting ready for next year.Ē

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE BROUGHT ALONG? ďIíll rely on Chip Ganassi to make sure how they bring me along. Iím the rookie here. Yes, I have a lot of knowledge. Iíve raced a lot of cars and I have a lot of experience in spots, but itís a new world for me. They know it and I donít. Iím open to suggestions. If they say we want to go there, Iíll say, ĎOK, weíll go there.í Where they think itís right Iíll be there.Ē

ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT POTENTIAL PROBLEMS WITH YOUR RELEASE FROM McLAREN? ďNo, I think everything with McLaren is pretty settled. Itís not a matter of releasing or not releasing. Itís a matter of working together. Iím not racing the Formula One program, but the reason Iím not driving the Formula One program is because DaimlerChryslerís interest at the moment is for me to be here. To be realistic, weíre completely out of the championship this year, so there was no pointÖ To learn here, itís going to take time. The more time I can spend here in America and focus on next yearís deal is important.Ē

ELABORATE ON THE F1 RELEASE ďItís not a matter of when itís released or not. Itís not about being released. Itís about working together and seeing when we can actually start doing the job. Itís a matter of talking and deciding whatís the best for me and whatís the best for DaimlerChrysler. Itís that simple.Ē

WOULD IT BE BETTER FOR YOU TO JUMP IN RIGHT NOW? ďI think at this point itís a little premature to be honest in a way. You think about it and theyíre right in the middle of the season. Yes itís important for me to get up to speed with the team, but I think at the same time itís important not to disturb the way the team is developing this year. You cannot damage their program because I got released a bit early. The plan with Chip was always the end of October. If we have a couple more months we should be happy about that. We shouldnít be arguing if itís now or in a monthís time. The main focus here is 2007.Ē

COMMENT ON YOUR DRIVING STYLE? ďI think style is hard to say. I think everybody has his personal style. Once you drive the car and see how comfortableÖ I think itís about how comfortable you are with the car. If youíre really comfortable you can be more aggressive and use more of the car. If youíre not as comfortable and the car is not as comfortable for you to drive you need to be a bit more predictable with the car. I donít know. I havenít even driven the car yet. Itís hard to say howís my style. I get along with Jeff Gordon well and Casey Mears and David Stremme and all the guys at Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates already came to me and told me whatever you need. Every driver Iíve met so far has been mega nice to me. Itís been Ďanything you need we will help you.í Iíve never seen that before. Iíve been in Formula 1 for six seasons. In six seasons Iíve been to the Williams motorhome and McLaren motorhome. Iíve never been to any other motorhome in Formula 1. In 10 minutes I was in Jimmie Johnsonís, Roger Penske. I was in every bus and motorhome and everyone was nice. Theyíre just happy to be there and itís great to see. Itís great to see people loving the sport and enjoying the sport.Ē

COMMENT ON OTHER OFFERS IN FORMULA ONE? ďThe chance Chip gave me to come to America and race NASCAR, you donít get it every day. Maybe three or four years down the line, maybe the opportunity wasnít available. Maybe Chip wouldnít want to give me a ride in four years. Maybe he could have. Moments come in your life and you can either take them or leave them. I decided to take it. I decided it was best for me, the best for my career, the best for my family and Iím just happy. Iím so happy to be working again with Chip.Ē

WHAT DOES YOUR MOVE MEAN FOR F1? ďI think F1 from the technology point of view is the highest sport there is. It is very well positioned world wide. You come to America and nobody is really interested in it. When I was there it was hard to see, but now being a part of NASCAR and being able to be involved with the Latin market and having Colombians, being close to Colombia, everything is just fantastic. From my point of view, to be able to say five years down the line hopefully I could go say ĎI won in CART. I won in IRL. I won in Formula 1 and I won in NASCAR.í How many drivers in the world are able to say theyíve won in everything they raced on? Thatís exciting to me. Of course I want to do well. I want to kick everyoneís butt there, but itís not going to be easy. Everybody out here is great, and theyíre going to make my life very tough.Ē

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