Most of the Dodge Boys are pretty quiet these days. Now, we don’t know if that’s because of their on track performance so far this year or not. But suffice to say, they ain’t saying much. So when we got a chance to hear from one of them, we jumped. As it turned out, the one talking was one of the better running Dodge Boys, Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger. That’s interesting because his team is drawing plenty of interest these days for a number of reasons. One is that the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGRFS ) team is stocked with former Indy and open wheel drivers trying to learn the nuances of NASCAR. Two is that Chip recently shook things up in his team by moving around a bunch of people including changing crew chiefs. One more thing that is interesting is Montoya’s take on his time in NASCAR. Remember, he came over from Formula One. Talk about your culture shock.
Montoya has adapted well, earning as high as a second place recently at, of all places, Talladega. It’s about as far from Formula One as a driver can get. JPM is looking mighty stout and it seems like only a matter of time before he’ll win his first race. Check out what he’s talking about these days.
: How did you feel about getting into the Top 12?
Juan Pablo Montoya: We’ve been really consistent. I think that’s really key for our team. Apart from the first race, pretty much every race we’ve had a top 20 finish. Last weekend was a really good weekend for us. Being realistic, to really be able to make the Chase, you have to run a little bit better. We’re running average, maybe 12th to 15th place car. If we could run closer to the 10s then we could probably get into the Chase.
: How difficult is it to control your emotions inside a race car?
Montoya: I don’t pay too much attention to it. I think its more – it’s easy to control the anger versus the frustration. When everything is going really bad, it’s harder to control. When things are going good - the aggression - you can control that pretty easy. If you need to turn your aggression down, you just deal with it.
: Is the learning curve steeper than you first anticipated?
Montoya: I thought the first part went pretty smooth. The last bit has been pretty hard. To get good every week is really hard. It’s not only myself, it’s the entire team. We swapped crew chiefs. Last year we had a pretty good car here. We had maybe a 10th to 15th place car. We didn’t have anything else for anybody. We decided to come with a completely different setup and it really didn’t work. Today was trying to catch up and at least make it drivable. It’s going to be a tough weekend, but it’s part of the learning curve.
: Does it feel strange to be in stock car country and not in Indianapolis this time of year?
Montoya: I only ran (Indy 500) once. No, I’d rather be here than there to tell you the truth.