JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO 2 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, WINNER OF 99TH RUNNING OF THE INDIANAPOLIS 500 met with media Monday and discussed his second victory in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll go ahead and get started with our availability with the winner of the 99th Indianapolis 500, Juan Pablo Montoya.
A little less than 24 hours since you took the checkered flag there. Has it sunk in yet that you’ve won the Indy 500 for a second time?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think it has. Sorry, my voice is not at its best after the screaming yesterday.
I think yesterday it did. I mean, as I was coming to the line, I was really happy. It was like, It’s happening. You know, it’s pretty cool.
After that, I don’t know, I get really excited for a very short time, then it’s, Let’s move on, next. You know what I mean?
Even last night I was thinking, Okay, we got to make sure, you know, we done really well this year so far, we got pretty much four podiums in six races, two wins out of six races. We got to make sure we keep the ball rolling if we want to try to win the championship.
You know that Will’s going to be there every week. Dixon is going to be there every week, so… It’s going to be hard.
It’s exciting. It’s exciting to start the season like that. So it’s pretty cool.
THE MODERATOR: Does this win, 15 years after you won your first, does it mean more because your family was here, your kids were here?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think each win is exciting in its own way. This one was really special because it’s the last one I had. You know what I mean? It sounds funny when you say 15 years. It sounds like a long time. To be honest, we have done so many things apart from IndyCar, I really just done this three times. I still feel like I got to learn a lot. Like I still feel like we suck in qualifying. We were unlucky, but we’re not as good as we need to be.
We really worked, to be honest with you, in race trim, to make sure I could run the car the way I wanted to, be comfortable with it, be aggressive with it. That’s what we did and we were good.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up for questions for Juan.
Q. Juan, it seemed like all of your former buddies down in NASCAR were watching. They all sent you congratulations. What is it like to know that these guys are really following you in this race?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It’s great. It’s amazing. I got messages from the guys from NASCAR. I got messages from my old racing years in Formula One, people that I worked with in Formula One.
It’s pretty cool. You know, people care. I think whoever I’m working with, I feel I’m part of the family. Here at Penske, especially. They make you really part of the family.
But I always feel like I’m part of the crew. I don’t feel like I’m above any guys. We all work as hard. They put actually more hours than I do to give me the car to be able to do this.
I do consider this to be a complete team effort.
Q. It was one of the great finishes that this race has ever seen. Then you said you move on. Next week you’ve got two really tough races in Detroit with your teammates wanting to beat you, Dixon and the guys ganging up. How do you get a mindset from today when you’re still sort of celebrating going to Detroit?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I mean, I’m busy this week. We’re going to New York tomorrow. We’re going to Dallas. I just heard we’re going to Dallas the next day. Then I go to Detroit.
I don’t know. Just focus on the job in hand. It’s time to get in the car and get the job done. This week we had a lot of time early in the week to work on Detroit. We looked at setups already. We looked at where we want to start, the things we want to try.
We kept moving forward, to be honest. You have to. I mean, you never plan on winning. I mean, you plan on coming here and doing as well as you can. You can’t go, You’re going to win.
Like the wife yesterday, she said, I need to organize the bags for New York before the race.
I said, What are you smoking (laughter)?
I do know I had a really good car, I had a good shot at winning this. So do a lot of people, so…
I mean, it’s good to run that good. You know what I mean? It’s good to come to these races with a shot. It makes it fun.
Q. Juan, in the past, especially in IndyCar racing, except you, you only had another driver who tried here in IndyCar, this was in a different era, Roberto Guerrero. Are you helping upcoming young drivers from Colombia with talent and bringing them up there?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I’m busy enough with myself, to be honest. If they ask, I always offer. I always offer advice. But that’s all you can do, you know what I mean?
It’s hard, because Saavedra, for example, a Ganassi car, This is the way you got to run the car. You know what I mean? How?
I do help, like Gabby Chaves asked me a couple questions. I tried to help him. I said, Look, it’s what the car does and you got to figure out what you need. You know what I mean? I think Chaves is pretty good. Muñoz is really good. He’s done really well here before. They didn’t have such good cars this week.
The Hondas, they don’t look that strong at the beginning of the race, but at the end they were right there again. They finished, what, fifth and sixth or something. They were right there.
Q. Juan, you’ve been around the last 15 years. Is there a way to compare this victory to the one 15 years ago?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I told people when I came 15 years ago, I didn’t do the parade, I didn’t do anything. I was racing CART. I never really even did the rookie thing, you know. I didn’t even do that.
Q. You got a waiver?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I got a waiver because I was quick the first day. I’m like, Okay, that works.
So, yeah, I mean, it’s not that I didn’t respect. Like, He doesn’t respect the place. I mean, one thing is respect, and the other thing is fooling yourself thinking you got to do something different. If you doing something different here, it means you’re not doing your job everywhere else. That’s the way I look at it. You know what I mean?
It’s what it is. What is it going to take to win Detroit? Same thing. You got to have a good car and you got to drive the hell out of it. If you drive better and do a better job than anybody else, you’re going to freaking win it. If you don’t, you don’t. Simple, no?
Q. You say you respected the place in 2000. I know you weren’t that big a fan of the car in that era. How much more competitive was it with this car?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Well, you got to remember when I came here, we came from CART. CART at that time had a stupid amount of power. The cars were really easy to drive. I mean, you know what I mean? They were fun. They were good to drive because if you had a good car, you could drive away. They were well-balanced.
But I could be so neutral in those cars, it was stupid how loose I could drive them. I remember I used to go into turn one, as soon as I turned in I would turn right and hop it all the way to the wall every lap.
I noticed that. I was doing a test actually in Vegas, I remember. It was gusting 35-mile-an-hour winds. I came out of turn four, they could see the side of the car. Oh, this is good. They actually stopped me. I said, Why?
I do remember that. These cars, I mean, I think the aero kits brought great racing. Man, it’s fun. It’s amazing how close and how competitive it is. I’ll tell you the truth, that pass for Power for the lead was just as hard as when I tried to pass Servia for 28th. It’s like they were not really easy passes.
It’s actually easier when you’re going for the lead because the guy in front of you doesn’t have a draft. The other guys, you know, you got to be closer because the guy in front of you has got the momentum, as well. It’s more about waiting for them to make mistakes than you passing them, you know?
Q. Given the early setbacks, dropping to 30th, lost some time in the pit stop, when did you begin to feel that you were back in the hunt and you convinced yourself you had a shot at winning?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: To be honest with you, you think about this. I overshoot the pits. I came in 20 something. I was running 20 something. After the pits, I came out 15. Through that run, I drove past I think nine cars in that run. The problem was I had like one car left to pass when the caution came out. But I couldn’t see the front pack.
I said, I’m going to have to wait for a caution. That’s all you can do. You know a caution is going to come out sooner or later. You just had to be patient and let it come to you.
I didn’t feel the car was good enough to win at the beginning. We did a lot of work with it. I don’t know if you noticed, but we changed the wing pretty much every stop, except the last one, where I actually felt we were good. I told the guys, Just leave it alone.
Q. After 2000, you already knew by then you were off to Formula One. Did you ever imagine or think that you would be back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an IndyCar?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No, to be honest with you I thought I’d retire about 35 at Formula One. That’s what people retire. That’s what I thought. I’m 31 or whatever at that time. You think you’re going to retire 35, you’re probably going to do one of your last few deals in Formula One. If there’s not a good option, why be there? Just to run mid pack? Hell no. What’s the point? I don’t see a point running mid pack, you know what I mean?
When I came to NASCAR, it was hard because, like Chip told me, We don’t have the best cars, but I want to work on something, work on having winning cars.
We started good. We were going in the right direction. We made the Chase. We fought for the championship through the Chase. Until the last race, we were right there, you know.
So when all that happens, you think you’re pretty good, you know what I mean? You go into the next year, and it kind of plateau. It’s like somebody pulled the parachute. It got to a point where you could qualify on pole. It’s funny, because they hired new people. When we went to New Hampshire, Loudon was one of my better tracks, being on pole there. I qualified 35th. The guy tells me I have no idea how to drive the car around that place. Because they had the setup that won last year with a different car, different geometry, but same setup. It was really smart, so…
I don’t know. I always say everything happens for a reason. I look back at it and I think I had a great experience in NASCAR. You know what I mean? I learned a lot, won some races, fought a lot. I learned to race a lot smarter, to be honest. It did really help me with that. I was very impulsive. But you had to be impulsive back in the day because, you know, you didn’t have the (indiscernible). You didn’t have ‘push to pass’. You had one opportunity. They had to know that you were coming, when you were coming. If you got in the way, you were going to crash. Better give some room.
Formula One was the same way. You got to throw it in there. You got to throw it hard enough in there to make the corner and they can’t. That was my mentality, and it always worked.
Q. Your children weren’t here when you won in 2000. Your wife wasn’t here.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No, it was a different one. It was a girlfriend at the time.
Q. Most of your crewmen weren’t here. They weren’t working with Team Penske until recently, most of them. How much synergy is there in this result because of all that?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I don’t know if you seen the video put yesterday on Instagram of our crew jumping. Did you see that? That was freaking priceless. I got it from the Instagram.
Oh, my God, that was priceless. I watched it more. The more I watched it, I laughed. It was pretty funny. We were going to meet in a bar, I don’t know, Beaver something downtown. We parked the car. I don’t know the name of the place. There were all the guys.
We were doing an event with Cindric the other day. We saw one of those bicycles that are like bars. We said, If we win, we need to get one of those. We did. We were taking turns driving around town in one of those things last night.
It was very different.
Q. Helio made a strange comment saying that perhaps it got a little too dangerous back there, the race was too dangerous.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Where?
Q. He was quoted as saying that.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: When he went through the grass? You got to get out of the grass.
Q. Were you surprised perhaps by those comments?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No. I mean, it got crazy because Pagenaud didn’t have a front wing, so people were trying to go around him, and he bottle everything up. I mean, there’s two ways of approaching it: be aggressive or be passive. You know what I mean? It is what it is. There’s room for X amount of cars. If you’re the X plus-one, then you don’t fit.
Q. (No microphone.)
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It was close. I had a couple close calls. I mean, I’ll tell you the truth. When we got to the bar last night, they had the race on. We pretty much just watched the race until it finished. Then I went back to the hotel. I did. That’s all we did.
I don’t drink, so… That was it.
Q. Is it a different feeling this time around being able to share it with your loved ones?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: We all have loved ones. Yeah, but having the kids around, the wife around, it was pretty cool. My dad was here 15 years ago. To be here and share with me. A ton the friends. It was pretty cool.
I mean, it was so fun. It was funny because yesterday when we were watching it, with 10 to go, I’m telling my engineers, At this point I thought we’re not winning this. I mean, I’m third. Dixon just blew by us. We’re screwed (laughter).
But, I mean, what goes around comes around. You know what I mean? I felt my car was (indiscernible) enough to fight Dixon. It was going to be good enough. It was going to be pretty close.
Q. The next ovals are obviously different than Indianapolis. Nevertheless, do you have an idea to improve your qualifying, what to do with the aero trim?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: The only place I qualify bad at an oval is here. Have to figure out what to do, you know. I qualified I think third in Texas last year. Pole in Pocono. Second in Fontana. And then 10th in Indy.
Hopefully make a couple more poles everywhere else. Getting into the Fast Nine is a big deal. Getting that pole is huge because you really got to trim those cars out. They’re a handful. My engineer, it was his first 500 running the car 100%. Last year Ron was running the car, he was there. This year it is the other way around. It was Ron looking after the teams, looking after us during the race. So it’s a little different.
It’s funny. When I come to the ovals and I drive, when we start practice, I don’t like the car. When I really don’t like something, I don’t even do a lap. If you look at the way I run practice sometimes, I get up to speed, don’t even waste your time. I’m not going to race that. Don’t even bother.
It’s honest. On Monday we tried six changes, and there were about three changes I didn’t complete a time lap. Went out, went through one and two, came back in. Nope.
I mean, I feel that if it’s not give me what I’m looking for and the thing I need to win or be really good, then you shouldn’t even bother wasting our time, you know. I think part of the oval success is believing in the car 100%. You know what I mean? When you’re driving it, when you’re thinking the thing is not going to step out, or if it steps out I can catch it. You’re thinking about positioning the car, do whatever I want with it. You know what I mean?
Being preventive with what the car is going to do, you don’t have a shot at it, to be honest. I don’t think you can beat me if you’re thinking about that, I’m just thinking to drive the wheels off of it with no concerns.
That’s where we were yesterday at the end.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Juan, for your time.