|From left, Power, Montoya and Kanaan|
|Michael L. Levitt/LAT/GM|
An interview with:
Juan Pablo Montoya
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with today's post-race press conference. We're joined by Tony Kanaan. This is Tony's 72nd career top-three finish and six in 11 starts at St. Petersburg.
TONY KANAAN: Getting old.
THE MODERATOR: He has 119 top-five career finishes, and eight in 11 starts at St. Pete.
Tony, congratulations. Take us through the race. A lot of action happening throughout the entire day.
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I think you guys saw it. The new aero kits made the racing a lot closer, which I couldn't believe that that was going to happen. Of course, when you add more flaps and more wings, the chances to see more pieces flying are greater.
In a way I think it's a good thing. In the past I think we had too much of a strong cars, that we would use that against each other, nothing would happen. Nowadays you're going to have to think about what to do.
All in all I think was a good weekend for us. Obviously Penske dominated qualifying. We were able to break up the 1-2-3-4 today. I was glad we were able to do that. But they definitely did a very good job in the race. They had a pretty good pace. We couldn't catch them.
THE MODERATOR: What are your thoughts on the competitiveness of the series so far? Penske coming off to a great start, but Ganassi able to get on the podium here in St. Petersburg.
TONY KANAAN: It's early days. I think they are definitely going to be strong everywhere. But I think we're going to go to tracks that we just tested. The next race is actually NOLA, then Long Beach. Then we go back to Barber. I think we're probably going to be able to close the gap.
But, of course, starting the season with a win and a second place between those two guys. We know they're going to be strong all year. We can't let the results like that go away. We're going to have to step it up.
They have a very good team. I know how it feels. I've been on a team like that many years ago. For us it was great. We made everybody else mad. Right here in this place we finished 1-2-3-4. That came up in my mind today. I said, You know what, that was so great with Dan. We shouldn't allow that to happen yet. I was glad that we didn't.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q: A couple of drivers on pit road said it wasn't just big pieces that were coming off cars, it was little pieces of carbon fiber. Did you experience any of that?
TONY KANAAN: No, I just saw big pieces flying. You know, you're not supposed to hit anybody, man. It's open-wheel. It's not stock-car or touring car racing.
No, I did not experience any of that.
THE MODERATOR: We'll introduce our second-place finisher, Will Power. Will led the most laps in the race, 75 laps, and has led the most laps of anybody at St. Petersburg, with 240 laps led. Has finished in the top three in four starts at St. Petersburg.
Take us through the race, a strong race for you, but I know you'd probably prefer to be on the top step.
WILL POWER: Absolutely, considering how quick we were. You know how these IndyCar races go, they're always mixed up. You have to survive all that stuff.
That's actually the thing I enjoy about IndyCar racing. Doesn't matter where you start, anything can happen. If you just hang in there, you can have a good day.
For sure for us it's a little bit disappointing to have led so many laps and been so quick, to end up second.
At the end of the day it came down to tire choice. It was my choice to put the reds on. Juan put the blacks on. He could hang with me for that second to the last stint. I allowed him to jump me in the pits.
It was a good battle. We pushed each other hard, man. You know, I saw the gap, there was one chance, and I went for it. We rubbed a little. But, yeah, got to put a bit of a show on for the fans, right?
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.
Q: Tony, for someone who is really good here, what is the reason that the Penske organization is ridiculously good here with the amount of wins they've churned out at this place?
TONY KANAAN: I don't know. I think they're just ridiculously good everywhere, to be honest with you. This guy, since he joined the team, they've been very good.
I mean, they don't mess around. They're here to win races, just like Chip. That's all they want.
I think year after year they keep increasing the quality of their people. They add another driver this year, which obviously makes those other guys to push each other.
I don't think that is a secret, if you look at it. It's quite simple. You have a good organization, you hire the best people out there, your chances of winning are much higher than everybody else.
Then you get four very good drivers with four very good cars, chances are that you're eventually going to get 1-2-3-4. Like I said, I've been on a team like that before.
I think they're dialed in. It's up to us to try to break that, like we did today. They're definitely the guys to beat.
Q: Will, you said yesterday you thought the Chevy aero kits were fairly robust. That held out today. You lost one of your little rabbit ears. You said yesterday that wouldn't make a difference in handling. Did it?
WILL POWER: It did make a difference. Definitely lost front end when I knocked that off. Gave me good traction out of the corner.
They're not on there for no reason. They spend millions of bucks and have wind tunnels to have nice little rabbit ears. It's better if you don't knock 'em off (laughter).
Q: Will, you walked in as T.K. was saying you can't have any contact in these cars. Do you have that assessment, as well, after today?
WILL POWER: I think you can probably rub. But, yeah, you probably have less contact than with the other car.
You definitely go for gaps you wouldn't go for with this car since we've had the old car. If I'd gone for a gap, I probably wouldn't have gone for it in the old car, but I went for it with Montoya. If I miss a bit, we just rub off and it doesn't put him in the wall, yeah.
So they added all these bits to fall off, though. Amazing the amount of stuff that fell off. Rabbit ears laying all around the track (laughter). It was just everywhere, right? Chevy boys getting into it. Every once in a while you'd see a piece of a Honda.
Q: Tony, I know you start every race with the intent to win. Did you or anyone else think you had anything for the Penske cars today?
TONY KANAAN: We knew it was going to be hard, especially when they have four of them. Two, okay, we can break them apart, something can happen. It's so unpredictable. But to like try to beat those four guys, I knew it was going to be tough.
I mean, we have to believe we had it. In reality when we dropped the green flag, I think we had a couple of them. Then when I saw Montoya on blacks, how strong he was in the middle of the race, unless a miracle happened here, I don't think we'll be able to catch them.
There are days like this. I'm the first one to admit they did a much better job than the entire field. They deserved the results that they got.
Q: Tony, back in 1999 and 2000, you raced with Juan. He was young and fearless. Now he's experienced and fearless. How big of a difference is there in Juan? Getting off to a start like this, he's got to be a serious threat for the championship.
TONY KANAAN: Juan was always going to be Juan. He's good. I mean, I don't understand whoever thought he wasn't. Look back at the career that the guy had. Obviously took him a year to get a grip on things, and he's back.
You watch him. He's going to bring a lot of entertainment this year, a lot more than last year, I would say.
Q: Will, even after the contact, you still had a chance to catch Juan, but then you hit traffic. Were you disappointed by the drivers in front not exactly ceding position?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it was a hard situation. I know Sage tried to get out of the way for Juan. He probably didn't realize I was behind him there. He moved out the way as quick as he could, gave Juan a pretty good old gap there.
Yeah, that's tough, you know. That happens in racing. If you're the leader, you love it. If you're second, well, you lost an opportunity.
But, yeah, all that stuff comes and goes for you, works itself out by the end of the year.
Q: Will, did something happen on the last pit stop? Looked a little bit slower.
WILL POWER: I don't know. Have to review all that stuff. My tires were very shot at the end of the stint. My in-lap probably wasn't that special. And, yeah, I don't know, I think we lost a second on pit lane to Juan, however that was. It could be a number of things.
We just go back and analyze that stuff. It's kind of the first race, a couple of new guys. Pits may have had nothing to do with that. Could have been the way I came in the box. That's racing. Can't get it perfect all the time. That's what makes it fun.
Q: Will and Tony, Juan is an immensely popular worldwide motorsports figure. Him winning again, do you think that elevates the series?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I think it is good for the series. It's good having him in here. He's a colorful character. Obviously very fast. He has a massive following in Colombia. We should do a street race down there.
TONY KANAAN: Here as well, though. Did you hear them?
WILL POWER: Colombians coming over. Probably Brazilians, too.
TONY KANAAN: I think Will said it. Of course it's good. If you look at how popular this guy is in his home country, it's always good for the series to get it out there.
Q: Tony, you are always a contender here. Is it fulfilling knowing you're always so tough here or is it frustrating?
TONY KANAAN: It is what it is. I mean, you got to keep knocking to win the race. I can tell by experience, just doing 13 Indianapolis 500s, to win it on the 12th time.
We'll keep trying. I have plenty of podiums here, but not a win. As long as I come back here, I'm going to keep digging, trying to get a win.
Q: Will, I saw you rubbing your neck there a little bit. Do the aero kits make a difference in the physicality of the cars?
WILL POWER: Yeah. The neck is going to slowly grow. Going to have to get a bigger collar size. Getting bigger and bigger. I'm going to have a neck like Tony by the end of the first four races. The ladies love it. But I'm married, so it doesn't matter.
TONY KANAAN: As long as your lady love it, that's all you care about.
WILL POWER: My wife loves it. Look like a man now, you've got a bit of a neck.
TONY KANAAN: Mine tells me every day (laughter).
Q: Will, talk about the restart where you went from fourth or third to first right there.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I was determined. Helio had jumped me in the pits. I thought, I'm going to make this one count. To come out first, Oh, wow, that's awesome. Another one of those bloody rabbit ears came off in front of me.
TONY KANAAN: That was Helio.
WILL POWER: Was it Helio? Okay. It was a good restart.
Every now and then it all falls well for you. It definitely did on that occasion.
Q: I may be asking about the same restart. It was when Hawksworth and Sage were in front, then Helio, Power, Montoya and then Tony.
TONY KANAAN: And Simon.
Q: Tony, how did you get past Helio and end up kind of in third there?
TONY KANAAN: That's a good question. Sometimes you don't remember stuff.
No, I know Helio hit Simon, I think, and lost a little piece of his front wing. That did slow him down. I time it just right and I got Helio out of turn one.
So it was kind of a bit of a mess. Will just took off. Then Sage and Jack started to fight. Simon and Helio, as well. I just got a clear view of where to go, pretty much. It worked out good.
By the end I knew how strong Helio was. Even without that little piece, he was still catching me. But we put ourselves in a good position.
I mean, I always try to take advantage on restarts. So far it's been working quite well for me.
Q: They delayed a yellow flag with debris out there clearly on the racetrack. Are you okay with how they go about doing that? How should they do it? I know they wanted to get the pit cycle over, but some debris is worse than others. How should they flag that?
TONY KANAAN: It's a tough call. That debris, I honestly didn't understand that call because that debris was there for like five laps, so… When they called it, I was like, Was that for that one? That's been there forever.
WILL POWER: They waited. I don't know if they waited for everyone to pit or…
TONY KANAAN: I think that could have been, I don't know. But once somebody saw that, I know for a fact a couple of us just dove into the pits because we want to take advantage of the yellow. If race control figured that out, they probably just didn't throw the yellow until everybody cycled, not to give one or the other the advantage.
Debris, in my opinion, is debris. If you're going to call the yellow, call it when you see it.
It's tough to say. I don't know what they thought, but that debris was there for five laps.
WILL POWER: I thought they were going to go yellow. I did exactly what Tony did. I dove in the pits. Then they let a couple guys go a couple laps longer, then they called yellow.
As long as they do that all year, I'm good with it. If they do that one race, then you think, I'll stay out, then they go yellow, you know, it's very hard to read.
Q: Speaking of race control, did the drivers meeting go pretty well this morning? Is everybody pretty happy at this point?
TONY KANAAN: Yeah. I mean, honestly, guys, you know why people keep coming back? It's a tough job to take. I mean, it's not easy. Sometimes I feel bad because whoever it's going to be up here, it's going to be the guy that is going to take the heat.
He can't control what we do. Sometimes to make calls, it's very difficult. I'm a big supporter of anybody that is going to run this series.
Brian is back. A lot of people thought twice to take a job like that because it's a big responsibility, and he's going to take the heat.
I think went just fine this morning. We actually talked a little bit about starts and restarts to improve the product not just for us but for the fans. So far so good.
It's a hard place to be. I would not apply for that job when I'm off racing, that's for sure.
WILL POWER: Yeah. It's a thankless job. You're always going to have one guy that's happy and one guy that's not.
I think Brian does a really good job. He got a bit of a bad rap.
TONY KANAAN: Somebody flipped him off once, but I don't remember (laughter). That happens.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, I didn't even think anybody was watching except him and three people (laughter).
That's me, man.
Q: Will, you didn't know Juan when he competed in IndyCar the first time. What was the perception you had of him? Was he that way when you finally got to know him?
WILL POWER: When I was racing Formula 3, he was in Formula One. I think he was with Williams. He was phenomenal, the type of guy you really look up to when you're a young guy racing in the junior categories.
Then I met him. I was like, God, disappointing (laughter). No, no, no.
Juan has been known to be a tough teammate. You hear rumors, that type of thing that go around. But he's pretty honest. Like he'll tell you straight up. I don't think he beats around the bush, tries to play games or anything. Yeah, he's good.
I've enjoyed working with him. I've learned stuff off of him. He's a very tough competitor, tough racer. You know if he's behind you or you're racing with him, he's very difficult to keep behind.
So, yeah, you know, that's him, right? That's the way he was in Formula One and CART when he was racing back here, just that type of guy.
Q: Tony, you did know him at the height of his success. Maybe his outside reputation wasn't always as such a pleasant person. He was humbled a little bit in NASCAR. Didn't jump right back into it the way he hoped last year. Do you see some of that swagger and old Juan coming back?
TONY KANAAN: Let's not call him old because I'm older than him. He looks older than me, but…
I don't know. Honestly, what I like about him, I don't think he changes his personality. But we all grow up. We have kids. I think we kind of change a little bit in a way.
So, yes, seeing Juan celebrating with the fans the way he did today, I can assure that wouldn't have happened 15 years ago. But that was Juan back then. I think you go through experiences in life to learn. I think he got probably a pretty big wake-up call when he moved to the other side, to NASCAR, and he was just one more, right? You have big names there.
I appreciate that on him. I think he learned that. Then when he came back here, he was a little bit of a different person. I can still see the old Juan sometimes on him, which it's great to see. Juan is a good guy to have beside you, not against you. That's the way I put it. That's still there.
But I think he has a big vision now for the fans and the people that care about the sport which I think in a way he didn't before.
Q: Are the aero kits causing any visibility problems when you're getting close to another car?
WILL POWER: I don't think so.
TONY KANAAN: No. I mean, the mirrors are a little busier because you have more pieces.
WILL POWER: My mirror just shakes.
TONY KANAAN: You're going too fast. Slow down. If you slow down, it will stop shaking, trust me (laughter).
WILL POWER: You see someone coming around, it's like…
TONY KANAAN: No. You just need to get used to it.
Q: The top seven drivers in today's race all have been driving in Indy style racing for the last 10 years or higher up forms of open-wheel racing. Talk about how this is a race for veterans rather than the rookies.
WILL POWER: I think it's great. I love seeing T.K. and Helio and Juan, all these guys still kicking. I'm mid 30s, too. I'm getting there.
But, you know, experience counts a lot. I'm working that out now. You're just smarter in so many ways. You just understand it so much better. You take what it gives you instead of trying to force it.
Yeah, experience counts, which is great for the series. I love that. I love that older guys win.
Here he is now.
TONY KANAAN: The old man is coming (laughter).
I agree with Will. Look at every sport. If you want to compare to NASCAR, compare to Formula One, every once in a while you have young kids. But we went through the process. When me and Juan joined CART, we had Unser, Jimmy Vasser. It's just a cycle, right?
Especially nowadays, changing the series, the aero kits, the way we are, experience counts a lot.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: You're older than me, by the way.
TONY KANAAN: I just said that. You heard me.
Q: (No microphone.)
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I don't dye my hair.
TONY KANAAN: I don't dye my hair, but that's your teammate. But I don't have a lot (laughter).
Anyway, the winner is here so we can go.
WILL POWER: Exactly.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Will and Tony, see you in New Orleans.
We're pleased to be joined by the race winner, Juan Pablo Montoya. This is his 13th career IndyCar win. He last won last July at Pocono. This is the seventh 1-2 finish for Team Penske since 2011. The last one came at Milwaukee in August 2014 with Will Power and Juan Montoya. This is also Team Penske's 175th open-wheel victory.
Juan, congratulations. Definitely a lot of action out there today. Take us through how you were able to finally get to the front later in the race and eventually get the victory.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: To be honest with you, I was kind of stressed. After the first run, I was like just get to the end, take some points and go home. Behind Simon, I was pushing hard. I knew I was quicker than him, but it wasn't enough to make a move. But I didn't know, it's like the other two were going into the distance, my tires were starting to go off like last year. I thought, Not again.
So we made a couple adjustments. We ran black tires to black tires back-to-back. We had really good restarts. That's it. You know, just took it as it came.
THE MODERATOR: Does it feel like this has kind of come full circle for you as opposed to last year when you were coming back to the series? Everything is not necessarily new, but you're needing to adjust again.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It's exciting. Last year was very disappointing. It was tough not only here but generally on the street courses. I'm a guy that always excelled at street courses everywhere I raced. To come here and have a year with really bad street course racing, it was pretty tough. I was never happy with the car.
You know, with my engineers, we decided to go in a completely different way the than the other guys. It paid off. My pace on black tires was pretty, pretty good.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q: I'll put a different spin on what I asked the other two. In '99 and 2000, you were young and fearless. Now you're experienced and fearless. How similar are you from the young Juan and how different are you?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I'll tell you what's the big difference between myself last year and this this year. Last year going to the restarts, I was thinking, Don't hit anything. Try to pass somebody, but I was behind the car and I didn't have enough time to look for opportunities.
In these restarts, I knew how far I could go, brake, make the corner. You know what I mean? Everything just clicked. I was looking for the hole, always looking for the hole. I think that was a big plus.
Q: Juan, last year you said one of the things you had to adjust to is getting used to the alternates. How much more comfortable did you feel on the reds?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I'll tell you, something we did over the winter, we got the car to drive really, really well. I mean, I still feel I didn't do a good enough job in qualifying. I felt I left a lot out there. I don't know. It's a building process.
But I'll tell you, I was amazed how quick we were today, especially on black tires. I mean, I had as good of pace as the reds, but more consistent. That was pretty exciting.
Q: I think you said you were behind Pagenaud struggling a little bit, yet you took on Will Power who was way out in front at the early part of the race. How did you get by him? Once you were ahead of him, did you have to drive looking in your mirror?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No. We were saving fuel. We were trying to get to a number. They were giving me a number. You try not to lose touch with him, but at the same time you're trying to save gas. You know what I mean? You're doing everything you can to save fuel and be fast. And we did.
I noticed he started struggling a little with red tires. I thought I might have a shot at passing him when he was on reds and I was on blacks.
I think what I did really well was my out-lap on red tires. I was on it. I knew he was going to be struggling, so I had to take advantage of that. I think my out-lap was really fast. I think that helped.
I pushed really hard for two laps. I opened like a three-second gap and I backed off. Started saving fuel. I was getting to the gas, taking my time. I don't care if he gets here. You could hear the guy on my radio, 1.7, 1.4, three car lengths. I'm like, I know, I know he's coming. I know if I push, I'm going to open the gap, but I am going to kill the tires, and the last 10 laps I'm going to get passed.
Will had a go at me. He was still two car lengths behind. Every lap there, I was lifting, then braking. I just went there hard, braked pretty deep. He had nothing. His front tire was against my back tire. Pretty optimistic.
But it was good. I made it pretty tight for him, you know. But we run pretty smart, so that was pretty cool.
Q: How does it feel for you to be in good equipment that you know you can win in, then you actually do win? Do you feel like the old Juan Pablo?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I feel the same guy run in NASCAR seven years and made the Chase. If you look at the cars I was in for seven years… How many years the Chase has been on?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: So 11 years. I'm the only guy on those cars that made the Chase was me, so I think that says something.
I did what I could with the car. The team was a lot of up and down, so it's frustrating. Here it's really cool, the relationship I have you notice with Will, with Simon, with Helio. It's really good. We help each other. We push each other really hard.
Honestly, every time we're on the track, we're trying to beat each other, even testing. We're looking at each other's data, video. The cool thing here at Team Penske is if somebody is quick somewhere, you can go ask them, What are you doing here? I aim at this, I look for this. So it makes it really easy. It makes it easier for you to go fast. You saw how close we were in qualifying, so it's really cool for the team. That's what Roger wants. He wants the team to win.
Q: I think there were points in your career that people may have viewed you as maybe a jerk, for lack of a better word.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: That's okay.
Q: Tony Kanaan noted today maybe having children, having a family, has maybe changed you a little bit. He pointed out how you celebrated with the crowd and said 15 years ago you wouldn't have done that. Do you see any accuracy in that?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Maybe a little, but…
I don't know. I've never been a big believer what people say about me, to be honest. As long as I feel I'm doing a really good job, I'm driving the wheels off the car, the people I drive for are happy, that's all that really matters.
In this case, if Verizon, Hawk Performance, everybody in our program are happy with the performance, how we interact with the sponsors and everything, the guests, the fans, it's good.
Do I pay maybe a little more attention to the fans? Yeah, I would say I do. When you're out there, I'm still the same, if you want to call the asshole, whatever you want to call it, it's good.
You said 'jerk,' that's pretty close (laughter).
Q: Juan, were you surprised at the amount of debris there was on the track? Does that raise concern about the aero kits?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No, I was expecting that. We talked about it. I talked to Brian Barnhart. I said, You watch, there are going to be a lot more cautions for debris while people get used to the aero kits, understand the limitations, everything.
I think it's going to make it more exciting in a way that people know they got to give each other a little more room, the cars are more fragile. They're used to working with cars that you bounce off people, nothing happens. Now you bounce, you look at Will, he lost part of his front wing just by touching me.
Q: With your career, you don't really need to make statements. In some ways the victory today looked like you made a statement. What is the statement that you think you made today in terms of the championship?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I don't know. I felt last year I did a good job. I was surprised how high I finished in the points, to be honest. But I felt last year everywhere I went at the end I had a chance of winning a race.
Today if you told me this morning I was going to win the race, I would have said, No. I just want to get some good points, have no mistakes, have good pit stops, see where we finish.
The warmup I felt pretty strong, but I didn't know how strong we were. I thought, to be honest with you, Simon had the best car this morning, so… It's irrelevant, I guess.
Q: This is your fourth win in an IndyCar temporary circuit format. How does this win compare to your other three?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I have no idea how many I won. But it's good. I mean, I've won Monaco I've won Pau. I won a lot of street courses. I won Long Beach.
Back in the day when we went to street courses, we were always looking for a win, you know what I mean? Will is like that. Will, every time he goes to a street course, he thinks he can win. He's always really strong, so…
I think for me to beat him today, it's pretty significant.
Q: Just seeing you around this weekend, even before you won the race, you're clearly having fun. At what point last year did the fun factor come back into driving a racecar?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: The fun factor is that you can win races. I mean, I feel like I'm in the best team. I have a great sponsor. We're performing well. What's the downside of it?
Q: (No microphone.)
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I felt on the ovals I was really good last year everywhere. Going to street courses was painful. Going to road courses, we were getting better, finding a few things.
We made a lot of changes. If you went and looked at my setup against the other three cars, you would think I'm completely insane. But I won the race, so I'm not that crazy, I guess.
THE MODERATOR: Juan, congratulations. We'll see you in New Orleans.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Thank you.