Montoya Talks About The Indy 500
DOES IT FEEL STRANGE TO BE IN STOCK CAR COUNTRY AND NOT IN INDIANAPOLIS THIS TIME OF YEAR?
Juan Pablo Montoya (JPM): “I only ran (Indy 500) once. No, I’d rather be here than there to tell you the truth.”
WHY ARE WE SEEING THE INFLUX OF INDY CAR DRIVERS TO NASCAR?
JPM: “What I think has changed is that people are starting to realize what NASCAR is. I think myself coming in last year, when Chip (Ganassi) hired me, that he showed people that anyone is really welcome here. If you perform, you’re welcome here. Everybody received me with arms open and it’s been an awesome experience. I think people want to try it. They see grandstands here every week are full. The racing itself is so good. I think that everything that I lived and done has been a lot of fun. But right now, for where I am, I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Chip Ganassi (CG): “I think it has to do with the challenge too. Look at the guys that are down here of late. Dario (Franchitti) and Sam (Hornish Jr.), these guys have won the big one there (IndyCar) and sort of feel like they’ve accomplished what they’ve set out to do. I think they are looking for a new challenge. I agree with everything that Juan said. Look at Dario’s season or Sam’s season the last year or so. They won the championship. They won the Indy 500. They want a new challenge. I think they feel that it would just be repeated. Why would you go back and do that again? In fact Juan said that to me one time. When he and I were talking about him coming down here, I said, ‘I thought you were talking about Indy cars.’ And he said, ‘No, no, I already did that. I want to do something new.’ So I think that you have to look at somebody and say that if they accept the challenge, it’s a nice thing from a car owner point of view.”
THE TOP 12 GUYS COME FROM FOUR TEAMS. IS THIS A SIGN OF THE BRIDGE GROWING WIDER BETWEEN THE TOP FOUR TEAMS AND EVERYBODY ELSE?
CG: “I’ve given this a lot of thought lately. What are teams made up of? Teams are made up of good teams. Some have good drivers. Some have good teams and drivers. Some teams are made of good engine programs, good engineering. It takes a combination of all that. What you are seeing today, with the Car of Tomorrow, I think it’s more of a cookie cutter thing. Once you get it right, I think some of these teams are realizing that you can transfer that over to the other car. I think with the old car you weren’t able to do it as much. We’re finding with the new car, once you hit on something that works, it kind of works across the board. So that’s one thing that you’re seeing happen there and I think that’s a little of what you’re talking about. The fact of the matter is some of these teams are a lot bigger than they look like they are. It’s a tall order at the top level of the sport here to compete week-in-and-week-out. It’s very, very competitive. We throw around that word ‘competitive’, but I can tell you, it’s a struggle week-in-and-week-out to keep pace with not only the other teams in the sport – with how fast things move in it. It takes everything and everybody on a team pulling this boat in the same direction. The sponsor has to be an integral part – the driver – the owner – the team – every single person throughout the organization. These are big cumbersome organizations that take a lot … it’s not your grandfather’s race team anymore.
It’s a big cumbersome organization that has real challenges. We have so much rolling down the road these days, you’d be surprised what the fuel costs are, how that changes our budget for the year. We just race for a living. I have to make sure that every dollar we spend goes in the right direction and right area. I accept the challenge, but it’s a tall order.”
WHAT KIND OF A CHALLENGE WOULD IT BE FOR KYLE BUSH TO TEST IN AN F1 CAR?
JPM: “I think the first problem he’s going to have, whether they’re going to try and give him a test to try the car or a test for real? It’s like what we did for Jeff (Gordon). We took the real car and the real deal – actually when Jeff was there, the car had no rpms. I told them, ‘You can’t do that.’ So when Jeff drove the car, I actually convinced them to put in all the rpms like we normally would when we race it. And he did pretty good. Jeff did really good actually. We were very impressed with Jeff. But going from a demonstration to an actual test is a big difference. He’s going to get the pleasure to drive a Formula One car, but from there to actually get a proper test, the first problem you’re going to get is your neck. You need to train for months to be able to hold the neck. At least for the Formula One car. They give you a day or a half-a-day, you’re not going to do anything and nobody is going to look at you. Can he do it for talent? Maybe. But you have to remember, all his life he has done ovals. He’s not a road course expert. Yeah, he won in Mexico, but he’s not a road course expert. Part of the challenge that he will have is the same challenge that I had when I came here. I’ve done how many IndyCar races on ovals? Seven or eight races a year on ovals? So I did about 16 races on ovals before I came to NASCAR. So that’s a tall order. People don’t understand that, but it is. When I tested for Williams, I was racing Formula 3000 and I thought I was pretty good; I could hold my head and everything. I trained for two-and-a-half month’s non-stop. I had rubbers against a bed; I could move the bed with my head when I was training. When I went into a Formula One car, I couldn’t do five laps in a row.”
WHAT DO YOU SEE THE DIFFERNCE FORMULATING YOUR SUCCESS FROM OPEN-WHEEL RACING TO CUP?
CG: “I think you have to look first of all, in the IndyCar Series, in every series, there is a Scott Dixon or Kyle Busch, and we have the Kyle Busch and the Jimmie Johnson in that series (Indy). That’s the first thing you have to look at, we have the talent. We have the talent here also; he’s sitting right next to me. He’s still in a bit of a learning process and he’s getting there fast. I’ve got all the faith in the world in the guy. The fact of the matter is that it’s a tall order to learn what’s in front of him. I have those guys there already. That’s a fine-tuned machine that’s been a championship-level organization for a long time. People say, ‘Why don’t you just bring those guys down here?’ Well, they don’t want to come down here. They’re happy doing what they are doing. They want to continue to do that. It’s just a matter of putting together that type of organization here underneath the guy on my right (Montoya).”