Toronto GP Friday Interviews
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 1999 AND 2000, MAYBE THIS WASN'T YOUR BEST CIRCUIT. ARE YOU ENJOYING IT MORE THIS TIME AROUND?
"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."
YOUR TEAMMATES HAVE BEEN PRETTY GOOD HERE. CAN THEY HELP YOU?
"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 IF YOU CAN COMPARE THIS BACK TO 1999 AND 2000 BUT IT SEEMS GOING FROM TURN 1 TO TURN 2 IS NARROWER…
"I don't know. I think it's wider. There is a lot of room on that straight."
A LOT OF TIMES CARS GO IN THERE TWO- AND THREE-WIDE. THERE USED TO BE A CURB GOING INTO ONE AND THERE IS PAVEMENT. THEY GO OVER THE CURB AND GO THREE- AND FOUR-WIDE.
"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 aquaplaning every time you go through."
WILL POWER, NO. 12 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET:
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 to 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."
THE MODERATOR: We're pleased to be joined by Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Scott is driving the No. 9 entry on the streets of Toronto this weekend. Swept the races here last year to swing the points en route to his championship run.
Scott, how does it feel to be back here in Toronto, a great memory for you last year?
SCOTT DIXON: It was good until this morning, I think. The first practice was pretty rough. We had some major brake issues. So it was nice to get the car sorted out. It feels a little bit better. We're still struggling with balance a little bit.
The concrete patches seem to be our biggest problem right now in turns 1, 3, and sort of 9.
All in all, it's always great to be back here. The fans are fantastic. It's one of the best events we come to each year. I'm always excited for the doubleheaders.
THE MODERATOR: You just got done with standing start practice here which will be featured in race one tomorrow. Tell us a little bit about that and how the experience is for you and the challenge it adds to the weekend.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, definitely, I think with the car system we have here, it's not really built for standing starts. I think everybody has found a good compromise, and the standing starts of racing have been really good. Both I think Chevy has definitely done a great job with tuning them on the standing start stuff.
Credit to the series for having these practice sessions after practice to work on that with the different problems that we face on some of these circuits. Indianapolis was a lot different to what we find in most street circuits, but obviously, it's a nice gain to be able to run through that scenario.
So I think it can still go bad. Just try to bring the safest kind of way that you can make sure you have a fairly decent start and keep yourself out of trouble. As always, it will be pretty interesting to see how it comes off.
Q. Scott, obviously, your pit box is at pit out. How do you kind of gauge what's how the pit exit will be and how you're planning to merge then when your guys' stops happen?
SCOTT DIXON: It's hard to tell. Hopefully, tonight, I think, IndyCar are going to move the wall over a little bit more to make the merge a little easier and be able to fit two cars a little bit better.
Unfortunately, you don't get the line so close to the first pit box, like it used to be, up until this year where you'd get a big gain coming out of the pit on your competitors. So that's definitely a change.
But I think hopefully there's no situations because I think, if there is a crash on pit lane, you're going to block it, and that's going to be pretty bad for the race. So I think they're going to do their best to obviously make that lane wider.
But for us, we've just got to go when we can go. Hopefully, it works well.
Q. Scott, six races, one of them's double points, but you're 140 back. Is it possible?
SCOTT DIXON: It's always possible. We're definitely in a bit of a deep hole right now, but I think for us it's you know, it simplifies things. You don't have to race for points. You don't have to race for any scenario apart from going out there and winning.
So we've got a lot of work to do. I think we started the season a bit soft, and obviously I've made some mistakes and the team have made some as well. We're working hard. Chevy, especially this weekend, have done a great job with trying to work on the drivability of the engine and make some advances there.
Everything that we do now, obviously, will help us to try to win races but also carry over for next year.
Q. Is the biggest issue more the drivers the number of drivers ahead of you as opposed to the actual number of points that you are behind?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't know. I don't really look at it that way. I know out there sits 140 points, and the best we can do is try to narrow that gap. It's been a little strange, I think. In some ways, I think the first three could have had a lot more points at this stage.
Hunter Reay's had a lot of mechanical failures and some issues. Will's had quite a few penalties. Helio's has kind of had some strong races but just been finishing. I think Houston would have been the time for him to open up that gap but had the problem in race two.
It's a funny kind of Championship this year, as it normally is. It works out that it comes down to the wire, so I expect it to be exciting.
For us, we've just got to try and win races.
Q. Scott, last year you, for lack of a better word, you dominated the doubleheaders, and this year so far, you had one good result in Detroit and struggled a little bit in the others. Can you determine what the difference is this year between this year and last year?
SCOTT DIXON: I think the racing has changed quite a bit.
One, I think, Detroit we didn't do a great job in qualifying. I think the races have been a bit bizarre this year because of pits closed yellows. At this point, you kind of gamble to be the first car to pit last. You look at Huertas, Hinchcliffe dominated race one at Houston and winds up sixth or seventh.
These pits close yellows, yes, they're safe, and we've got to look at the safety of the sport. But if you're a leader, you're a sitting duck, and it can be anybody's race. So that definitely is the biggest difference we've seen throughout the races.
This year, I think race one in Detroit, we strategy wise messed up a little bit. Race two, we started from the back and still got to fourth after having a brake problem there as well. It is what it is, same for everybody.
This year, I think, on the cautions, one has been not great consistency, Houston race two. And I think the 67 was in the fence, and they ended up leaving it green for two laps to allow everybody to pit. So it just depends on how they pick it and who they pick to open the door for.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, thank you. Good luck tomorrow.
SCOTT DIXON: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with today's media availabilities. We are joined by Simon Pagenaud with Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports, driving the No. 77 entry here on the streets of Toronto.
Simon started and finished fourth in the 2007 Champ Car race, making his fifth start on the streets of Toronto.
Simon, you never finished worse than 12th here, a fairly strong track for you. Take us through practice today.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yes. The track is slippery. I mean, it's always a challenge here in Toronto with the difference of tarmacs.
Practice went well for us. It's important for us to do well. Oculus, our main sponsor, is a Canadian company. It's great to shine here in these conditions.
The car is beautiful, similar to Houston. So a little bit more tuning to do, but I feel very happy, very confident so far.
We've followed the program to the book, so all is good. Just need to tune it a little bit more. A bit more form for qualifying, and I think we'll be in really good shape.
Q. You've obviously driven here several times before. If you had to point out any part of the track that's particularly challenging or fun to drive on, what are some areas you'd point out?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I recall it's very challenging and fun to drive because you're on the edge of control basically. The bumps make it so you're dancing with the cars, and it's very difficult to get your braking point on par with what you want to do.
Sometimes you go too deep and the bump upsets you, upset the car, and it's way too deep. Sometimes you go just like a few feet earlier, and it's way too early. So it's a very difficult window to be on and to ride on. That's what makes it so challenging. It's very narrow as well, and the difference of grip makes it fun.
I would say turn 1 is certainly the most challenging because of braking, and there's a big bump in the braking. You get to midcorner, and it narrows up. So you have no margin for error. The last corner, turn 11, is very fast, and that's fun.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Simon?
Q. I saw a quote from you this week where you said that last year you came here to Toronto and you expected to dominate, frankly, and you had a really disappointing weekend. How were you able to bounce back and come out strongly? Do you view this weekend with the double points and everything as very important toward your Championship aspiration?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yes. Well, you know, after Houston, we had such a strong weekend, we just showed up with exactly the same package. It was that simple. It was too hard to do anything else because the car was so good there.
Luckily it worked. We had to make a few changes to adjust to this track. That's how we bounced back from anything that happened last year. I think last year we had a lot of issues with our brakes. It was a difficult weekend. We really never had a proper run. It was a nightmare.
So it was inside, in house, that we needed to do some work. So we ironed all of those details, and I think now we have a very different approach. Obviously, we go to each race with the will to win, which is very different we had the will before, but we didn't, I would say, believe truly that we could do it. Now we do.
Q. Thoughts on or concerns about the reconfiguration of pit out?
SIMON PAGENAUD: No. I think IndyCar has done a good job. Despite what's happening, it's a street track, so you need to adjust to the situation and whatever is happening in the city. It's pretty cool actually what's going on here with the ancient stuff that they found in the ground.
So it is what it is. I think, you know, every driver has struggled to be cautious to each other, but we'll try. We all know where it gets narrow, and I think it will be all right.
Q. Simon, as we come to the close of our doubleheader events this season, this is event number three on the schedule, if you looked back on it for you personally, how would you describe that format and how it's worked for you and for the team?
SIMON PAGENAUD: It's an interesting thing. It's a love and hate situation, I think. Love because, when you have a bad day, then the next day you can have another race and bounce back like we did in Houston. In those situations, it's fine. It's nice.
I guess my first win in Detroit last year, we did the same thing. We had a bad weekend on Saturday and good weekend good day on Sunday. So those times are good. It's very physical, especially Houston was, because of the heat, for the crew, for the drivers, for everybody, to do two races in two days.
But I guess it's great for the short. As long as the fans are happy, I'm happy. That's what we're here for and adjust. But certainly, it's very demanding.
Q. Can you explain, if there's another place to pass besides going into 3, I guess going from 1 into 2, is there any place that it would be possible to pass someone?
SIMON PAGENAUD: There is turn 5 in the area that you can try. It's risky. It's a little bit risky, but it's doable. It's tight there, but it's doable, turn 5. On restart especially, you'll see people going side by side to 3 and side by side to 5. That's where there's some action. That's where you complete the pass usually.
THE MODERATOR: And just for the record of the transcript, the question is where are good passing zones here on the streets of Toronto?
Q. There's been quite a lot of road work going on Downtown Toronto, specifically, not the lanes that involve the track directly on the back straight because they were done a couple of years ago, but sort of around that area, brand new asphalt has been laid down.
So there's sort of going from 1 to 2 there's very old asphalt, concrete, and then brand new asphalt, and then sort of two to three year old asphalt. Are you noticing any significant changes as you go through that?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I would say, I certainly noticed, before turn 1, the asphalt, then you go to concrete, midcorner 1, there you really notice it. Honestly, it is like an ice patch on the road, if you hit an ice patch, for those who have the experience of that, that's exactly how it feels.
Then you land on asphalt again on the exit of 1, and then it's gripping again. I noticed those three changes, but that's it. You don't really feel it in the straight.
As long as you don't need to brake, it's easy.
Q. In a points championship, you focus on what you can do as opposed to what the other guys can do, but Hunter Reay picked himself up off the mat last week, and now he's really seriously in it again. How concerned are you about him from now until the end of the year?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, you know, that's a good question actually. In my position and I think that's the way I take things you can put pressure on yourself if you want to, but what's the point? What's going to happen is I'm either going to win the championship or I'm not going to win it.
So the goal is obviously to win, and I'm going to try to focus as hard as I can on my stuff. My car is fast. It's been fast lately, and we're in good shape to do it. Now we need to execute, and that's the most important.
Whatever Hunter Reay does, whatever Power or Castroneves do doesn't really matter this point. It's about us and fighting to get the best out of ourselves.
If we do, we've been up front lately. So we should be, and we'll be good in points.
THE MODERATOR: Simon, thank you. Good luck tomorrow.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Thank you.