Pocono 500 Sunday Press Conference
|Montoya takes the checkered flag|
|Mike Levitt/LAT for Chevy|
An Interview With:
1st Juan Montoya
2nd Helio Castroneves
3rd Carlos Munoz
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with our Verizon IndyCar Series post race press conference. Before we begin with our race winner I would like to announce that this is the fastest 500 mile race in IndyCar history with an average speed of 202.402 miles per hour. The previous fastest race was Fontana in 2002 with a speed of 197.995 miles per hour.
Juan, we'll start with you. You have led laps in all three oval races this season. You're third 500 mile race win with other wins at Indianapolis in 2000 and Michigan in 2000. A big win here at Pocono Raceway. Tell us about your race today.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think it was a really good race. I felt a did a good jump on the start and for some reason you're kind of a sitting duck. I was kind of surprised how much of a sitting duck I was. When I got into Turn 1 I was like four wide. From as soon as I started winning the back straight and changed my feel, make sure and turn down the engine and just started saving fuel from that moment, I felt that's what we needed to do early, make sure we opened the race and opened the windows, and I felt we did a really good job with that.
From there on, I mean, it's a matter of being in the right strategy, just making the right calls and hoping things go your way.
THE MODERATOR: I know you noticed a big band of Colombian fans in the audience today. What did you say to them when you went over and embraced them after the race?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It was more about signing autographs and saying thanks for coming. They're really cool fans. I'll tell you the truth, I was amazed how many people were in the grandstands today for an oval race. It's unbelievable. It's pretty cool.
Q. I have a technical question. When you lost the front plate at lap 165, you said after the race you had a little bit of understeer. In principle can you drive the car without? Is it absolutely necessary?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, I think they just generate more downforce, not only front wing but overall downforce, but it is what it is. My pace, it slowed down a little bit. I could run 217s, 218s by myself and I lost about a mile an hour when we did it. But I mean, track position is everything, and that was the only shot I had at passing Will and I had to take it. It was either there or there or there, and we did it, you know. It was fun.
Q. Can you just take me through that incident with Will or at least the contact?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: The contact, we did the restart, and we went side by side. When I went into Turn 2 I said I think I can hold him, and I said, there's no point. We're teammates, let's be a little smarter, and we went into Turn 3, and he lifted a little bit, and I felt like I said, I'm just going to go in wide open, hopefully you know what I mean, go in really, really low and make sure I can run wide open. I'm going to run wide open behind him, I'm pretty close. I got a hold of the toe at the corner and he started going left and more left and more left, so I got to a point I finally got to him, and he like at that point I had to either hope he went right or I went right, and I went right at the same time he did, and I had to lift. I actually got out of the gas. If you look at my trace, I got off the gas and as soon as I cleared him I went wide open again. I think he thought it was because he went through so much dirt, he went so shallow into Turn 1, he lifted. He lifted too early and I held it wide open, and I said until I don't clear him, I'm not lifting.
I knew from going around people like they were pitting you could run the second groove you would get a little more understeer, but like I said, run wide open, get ahead of him and then downshift and get out of the corner, and that was it.
Q. For last week you said you're almost there. I guess today you can say that you are here. Talk about the comeback, first victory since 2000.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It's been a long road. It's a lot harder than people realize because as I said the other day, driving open wheels is so different than what I've been driving the last few years, and it's just it was going to take time. I don't like jinxing it and saying, oh, it's coming, it's coming. I'd rather be let's just keep working on it. I feel at this point we've got to step it up and work a little bit harder because I think we're in a position now to win the championship. So we've really got to step it up.
You know, we've been having really good finishes and everything, but if we want to win the championship, we've got to make sure we perform a little better on the street courses and stuff like that. We haven't run on short ovals so I have no idea what to expect. Hopefully it's as good as this.
Q. Juan, on the TV show, Paul Tracy said when you first came here you drove like a wild man back in the kart days. You drove like a wild man, flat stick all the time, and then you had all this experience in Formula 1 and NASCAR, and he said particularly today all that experience you had in NASCAR came to the fore and you drove a really smart race. Did you see it a similar way?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, I think he's right. The good thing with who I am and my character, it's I can kind of unplug myself and go at it. I still don't care. But you can run a lot smarter races. You can look at the bigger picture. NASCAR really showed me to look at the bigger picture that you never did, and I think 90 percent of the open wheel guys never look at the bigger picture, and I probably lost formula championships and everything by not looking at the bigger picture. Now that you do, you go, oh you know what I mean? It's a shame you can't turn back to be 20 again with this experience, but it's what it is.
Q. You just mentioned NASCAR. Was your NASCAR experience at this track any advantage or any help for you?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Not really. The cars are so different. We go over 10 seconds a lap quicker, so no. I mean, I wish it would. The only thing that helped was I knew where the corners were when we came here and tested. But we run even there were laps in the race you could run wide open all the way around, even in race trim. It was pretty hectic.
Q. Are you surprised to be talking about the championship at this point because a few months ago that didn't seem to be on your radar at all?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It wasn't. I was, I don't know, nearly 200 points out or something, and now I'm within 50. I'm still a ways away, but hey, I think people know that I'm coming, and it's good. It's definitely a plus. I think it's something that is helping and I've got to keep that in mind is I got to here because I've been really smart about it, and it's got to be that way. With Hawksworth in Houston, I could have been stupid or braver or whatever you want to call it and ended up in tires with him and prove a point, and what's the point. The point is that would have gave away 20 or 30 points, and then you get to the end of the year, and you go, oh, I shouldn't be fighting with that dude, you know?
Q. What did you think when you saw TK pit?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Big relief because like when he pitted, like I looked we have a little display with the laps, and I knew there was no way he was going to make it from here. I mean, there is no, no way. So I thought, okay, so there's two ways. One for him to make it is he's got to run really slow, and if he runs really slow, we'll get to him. And if he runs a little bit hard, he's going to run out of gas. So they were planning on a caution. If you get a caution with four or five laps to go, he wins the race. But it's what it is, you know?
Q. Juan, first of all, great race today. You had a really smart race. Two questions for you. One: Did you ever have any doubt in your mind that you can come back after so many years and win in IndyCar again? Was there ever a doubt? And number two, you're going to be running one or more NASCAR races for Roger. Do you expect that transition back and forth to be difficult?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think now I'm really settled on the IndyCar. Honestly I believed from how well I performed back in the day and how well I always ran in Formula 1 and like when I ran the Daytona Prototype and anything with grip, I could perform. I knew it was going to take a little bit of time, but I mean, having the opportunity to run for Roger, it's unbelievable. I've worked really hard physically and mentally to get here, and I feel in a really good place right now. I'm really happy.
I think adjusting back to the Cup car, that was a bit of a shock in Michigan, but by the time the race started, it was good. It was just a matter of what I want from the car is very different than what they want. I think going to Indy, it's a really good racetrack for me. I have really good knowledge of what I need to do, mental knowledge of like I could tell you exactly where I need to brake, where I need to turn, where I need to position the car, every frigging corner now. I'm going to go there and do that, and I know if I do that, I'm going to be pretty close already.
And something that is going to happen in Indy is that qualifying is after two practices. It's between the practices and the race. So we're going to be in a little bit better shape. Last time we had ran, I believe, six laps in Michigan and straight into qualifying. It was like, oh, what? I mean, it was kind of shocking.
Q. You never did much leading today; however, you always seemed to be going a lot farther with the fuel on your stints. Did you feel like even though you were not leading you were still in control of the race because you could go so much longer on fuel?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I didn't want to lead. Like I told Will, if I can lead the first lap, I'll lead the first lap and I'm going to back off and let you go, and he joked, I'm going to back off. I said, believe me, when I'm telling you I'm going to back off you'd better run because if not they're going to freight train us, so I was kind of happy I wasn't leading.
You know what I mean, it's about making fuel, learning how you can make more fuel and running smart and controlling the situation and the gap. I don't know, I feel like I do a really good job at that. I used to do a really good job back in the day, as well, with fuel. It's pretty cool. It's pretty cool when you can make fuel like that. I think it's the Chevy, not me.
Q. You're now one of a select few drivers who have won a race in IndyCar and NASCAR. Does that mean anything to you to be with some other noteworthy names or anything?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I did that years ago. I don't know, it's fun to do it again. I'll be honest with you. I never race for the history of it. I've never been a history buff. You know what I mean? If you look at everything I did, I've accomplished so far in racing, people, I'm probably going to 20 years from now they're going to go, oh, my God, this guy did this. Right now I don't really care. Now I'm thinking about what are we going to do for Iowa. Tomorrow we'll have fun with the team and plan how we're going to run the weekend and what we did right this weekend, what we did wrong, just I think we've been doing a really good job of learning from every situation, you know, taking advantage of every situation and learning from it.
Q. I'm curious about how you feel about this track, IndyCar, coming back here, the fans, et cetera, because I asked your podium and they were really enthusiastic, and I'm wondering about you.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It's exciting. It's a cool place because it's so close to New York and there's so many Latinos there, New Jersey and all that area. I mean, I think the crowd was really good. One thing that is hard is the overtaking is really hard. Overtaking is really hard. It makes for a hard race to watch, but I felt at the end of the race when everybody was like opening up the engines and went full ridge and full timing and everything, it was like, here we go, you know, man up.
Q. You kind of touched on it a couple minutes ago, talking about the Chevy engines. How key was that in your fuel strategy today. If you remember four of the top 5 were Chevy engines.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think Chevy has been doing a really amazing job this year. I remember last year if you look at last year's race they were getting really beat out of the pits and stuff, and we did a lot of work with that. We came here and tested a did a lot of work with that, and today our out laps and in laps were amazing. It's pretty amazing, the tires were the same. You could run out of the pits and run wide open all the way around out of the pits. It was not easy but you could hold it wide open. By the time you get to Turn 3 you're already at full speed with cold tires, low pressure, but what the heck.
Q. How good would IndyCar racing be if you'd had all the fuel you wanted to use?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Well, you can use as much fuel as you want. Are you going to have like a side tank next to you or something? (Laughter.)
I mean, it's about strategy, you know what I mean? Because the way the race is, if you could do I mean, I'll give you you could do, I don't know, like four and a half, a little more, miles that's what they were telling me, about four and a half miles per gallon with like five laps of yellow, you could do it in like five stops. If you run full ridge, you definitely had to run six stops. You had to make sure you covered that basics. It's something we talked about is make sure our pace, we can make the fuel, but our pace is fast enough so nobody can make it in five. If you force people to pick up the pace, you know what I mean, if you can get 20 seconds on them and you will get 20 seconds from them if they are saving too much fuel, then their strategy is out the window. So you've got to push people for that.
I don't know, some people say maybe a Push to Pass in the ovals like here would be good. I don't know, I think it's a lot of strategy. I think it's always been a hard race to pass even in a Cup car and anything you come here. It's the nature of the track.
Q. I know that when you made the decision to come back to IndyCar, you weren't really putting a timetable on getting a victory, but did you kind of feel at your own pace that this was pretty much seeing what these cars are like, having a half a season, that this is about right for you to get back to victory lane?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, things were going good, but you never know when you're going to get the win. As the move today with Will, I was lucky the front wing didn't break more. It could have been worse and both of us could have been out of the race, and it could have taken six more months to get a win. You never know. But we did the right things. We got the win, and I think it's I mean, we're in a good place at this point of the season; put it that way.
Q. Juan, I know you said about history and that sort of thing, but how impressed are you and what should we think about Roger Penske? Decades ago he won the first 500 mile race here with Mark Donahue and here you are decades later. Sort of talk about that a little bit.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think Roger is the man. I mean, it's unbelievable everything he does. He's head and shoulders above anybody else. That's why everybody wants to be like him. He's an example to anybody, and for me to be honest with you I'm not saying this because I run for him. I mean, I knew Roger a little bit, but now that I work with him, it's unbelievable. He knows everybody's names. The way he does things, you're not surprised why you're kicking everybody's ass; put it that way.
Q. You came up through the open wheel ranks as a youngster. You've always done well in open wheel racing. You did okay in NASCAR but you didn't win as many races as you did in open wheel racing. Now that you're back in open wheel, do you feel like you're here to stay? Is this what you want to do?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I told Roger, if you want me to run some Cup races I will, and I think I can do a good job because of all my experience, but I really wanted to be here in IndyCar, so I'll probably be here next year for sure, as well.
THE MODERATOR: We'll begin with our Verizon IndyCar Series post race press conference. We are pleased to be joined by our second place finisher, Helio Castroneves. With this second place finish Helio moves into a tie for the points lead with his teammate Will Power. This is his fifth top 5 and eighth top 10 finish of the season and also his 80th career top 3 finish. Helio, a great finish for you and for Team Penske. Tell us about your race.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, first, I want to thank Hitachi, Shell Pennzoil, AAA, Verizon, SKF, and Chevy, of course, for giving me a great engine and keeping me up there. Yeah, it was tough. Yesterday because of the incident that we had in Houston, we decided to start with a car setup a little bit different from my teammates so I wouldn't have any issue because I know the track gets a lot of grip, so I didn't want to do anything to aggravate the injury, and today I said we've got 500 miles, so I need to get used to it, and we changed it back.
I still don't think I had the speed of the other guys. They were much faster than me and we've got to sit down and figure out why.
But in the end I was just getting better and better and the car was getting better, and we just were waiting there. It's a tough race because the last year was winning by fuel mileage and this year the plan changed in the middle, but Roger had great strategies and put us in a great spot.
Yeah, finishing second no question is great. I want to win bad, but like I said, I did not have the speed that Juan Pablo had, and now tied for the championship, what a great deal. This is just absolutely awesome, and we've got to keep moving forward and not thinking back.
THE MODERATOR: We'll introduce our third place finisher today, Carlos Munoz for Andretti Autosport. Carlos finished third at both Long Beach and Houston race one. Another podium finish for you. Tell us about your race.
CARLOS MUNOZ: It was, I think, a really clever race in the beginning. No one wanted to lead. We were doing 210s, 209s, we just lifting all around on the straights and everything. It was quite a strange race in the beginning, but after halfway, we started to go faster and faster. It was a long race. On this track it's really tough to pass. Once you are behind a car, it doesn't matter if you are five miles quicker or slower, you're just going to stay behind the car. It's hard to pass.
But it was a great race for me. Third place, double point race, so in the championship I think we move up to sixth position. With Helio, he was really close in the pit stops. I was pushing too hard, and I had a big, big understeer in one, so that's why I couldn't attack him more. It's a great result. Congratulations to Team Penske for winning, too.
Q. Last week the Houston race was totally different racing. Is there any advice from the engine manufacturer to trim the engine, what to do to save fuel, or it's up to the team to make the strategy?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, you have your mapping through the whole season and you are the one using your strategy, and I think with the Chevy people, they have the same thing most of every one, and you just decide when to save fuel or not.
Q. Carlos, you won last year the race here in Indy Lights, which is of course a totally different car, but is there any benefit when you're coming back in IndyCar and you know the track already from Indy Lights?
CARLOS MUNOZ: Yes, I said yesterday also in qualifying, I think Indy Lights is a great school for all the drivers that want to step up to IndyCar. I knew this track fit really good last year. I was really quick, so that helped me a lot. Also when you have a great car with you, it gives you so much confidence to get up to speed quicker than anyone else, than the other rookies, all the other people.
Yeah, I just love this place. I love everything about this place. We'll see for the next year. Looking forward for next year, also, here.
Q. Helio, end of the race you're racing Will Power. He got penalized for blocking. What was it from your point of view? What did you think when it happened?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, we were racing hard. That's the beauty of Team Penske. There is no team order. I don't think many teams are able to apply that rule. Obviously the only rule is do not take each other out, but race hard, and especially both of us in the championship. I wasn't expecting anything different to be honest.
I'm not the one to make the call, but in the end, like I said, we are racing very aggressive.
Q. Carlos, what was your view on the last restart that IndyCar gave you a warning on?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I didn't know I have a warning really. For what?
Q. They gave you a warning on the last restart for I assume you nearly passed someone or things got wild in the back.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I think
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I wondered, he was right beside me.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It was close because I said, oh, man, I'm going to jump this turn so I lifted, also, and that's why I think I didn't get any penalty because in the end passing him on the finish line was really close, but the guys behind me, I think it was Aleshin and Dixon, for sure they did the same thing as me. It was a close one. I didn't really know I have a warning. I knew it was really close, but I lifted to don't overtake him on the finish line, and I think it worked out.
Q. Helio, seven races to go, you've won a lot of races in the series, you've won a lot of Indy 500s but never a championship, correct?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Correct.
Q. How bad do you want it?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thanks for reminding me. Nice guy.
Big time. I want it as much as anybody probably because we've been here for a long time, and now a great opportunity. Houston was very disappointing for me because it was one of those opportunities that you don't want to miss, and today for us it was great because we ended up collecting a lot of points, and that's the way we're going for it. So now we're looking for the next ones and continuing with the same pace.
Q. Guys, on the last pit stop when new garden and Kanaan went for the fuel strategy, were either of your teams feeling at that point that maybe you had gotten outfoxed in the fuel strategy department?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I just remember at one point which I was already tennis to that plan. I said, come on, guys, we've got to keep going. I can see they're moving forward, but I don't know their strategy to be honest. I knew they were pitting very early than us, but I remember them saying let's change the plan. That was the only thing I heard but I cannot confirm in terms of where they were and what they were doing to be honest.
CARLOS MUNOZ: They just said to me, follow the leader, and that's what I did.
Q. Helio, you talked about racing hard, no team orders at Penske or anything, but how tough is it when that happens and it's a teammate as opposed to just another driver, and have you had a chance to talk to Will? Have you guys discussed it, discussed what happened?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, I have not had a chance to talk to Will, and the good news is we try to what happens on the track stays on the track, and like I said, we were racing hard. I had a lot of teammates in the past, and we always try to keep that kind of way. Outside the track we can discuss or in the truck, if there was a problem, personal problem or something, but at the end of the day, we continue I have no hard feelings. I would have done something different probably, but I don't think there is hard feelings for us in terms of what you do or not. And I think Juan Pablo also applies that same motto. Well, today he's in the victory circle, so it does work. It's not about us, it's about Team Penske, and we want to get this championship no matter what, but obviously we need to be smart, as well.
Q. I'm just curious, how do you like Pocono Raceway?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it's always good when you finish up here. That means you had a good day. It is 500 miles. I believe it was actually great. It's a difficult track for any type of cars to pass because of the way it's designed in the corners, and it's fun. I felt the fans were incredible from yesterday. Not only today but from yesterday. I mean, I don't understand what these rumors regarding not coming back here because I feel that everybody enjoys it, everybody had fun, and hopefully we will continue coming back.
CARLOS MUNOZ: I love this place. Last year win Indy Lights, this year third. It's a really tricky oval. They are completely three different corners. 2 is not a big problem, but compared to 3 and 1, all the race you have to work to change your tools for the car, especially also when you are behind a car or whatever. It's true that it's hard to pass here because of the configuration of the track when you are behind someone. It's just really hard to pass.
But I just love this race. Also the fans was incredible, all Americans here. We're in like the middle of nowhere more or less. There were so many Colombians. I didn't expect to hear so many Colombians. I expect that in Florida or wherever but not here.
But I love this place and would love to come back here next year, and for sure I think we are coming back here.