After losing races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway with poor late pit strategy in the two weeks leading up to Sunday's road course race at Watkins Glen International, Juan Pablo Montoya finally closed the deal to snap a 113-year winless streak.
Montoya talked about the significance of the victory after the race, as well as easing his frustration at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. Here are excerpts of that interview:
Question: A year ago you were focused on racing for points to get into the Chase for the Championship. You're not in Chase contention this year, so is it easier to zero in on winning races?
Montoya: We've been like that for a while. I think last year we were so focused on making the Chase, it was all about numbers. It wasn't about being fast or slow, it was about bringing the car home. This year we thought we were going to do the same thing. We had a blown motor race two, race three taken out with a teammate. I don't think it was on purpose, but we tangle. All of a sudden, you know, by race five we had three (did not finishes). When you have three out of five races, the (did not finishes) keep happening, you have to be realistic about what's happening. You have to start being more aggressive. A lot of mistakes came, from my part and the team. I think this will really bring the team together and bring great things for the future.
Question: What did the win do for your relationship with crew chief Brain Pattie?
Montoya: We have a great relationship. We really understand each other. It's difficult because we're very competitive and we both want to win. (Saturday) we had a really good talk with Chip (Ganassi, team owner) and all the boys. Now this. It's awesome.
Question: You've used the words disappointed and frustrating to describe your season, especially the last couple weeks. Does this victory help you move your relationship with Pattie forward?
Montoya: I think it's simple: You know, as competitive as I am, he's as competitive with the racecar. I think we both come here every weekend with one goal: win. When the wins slip away, either my fault, his fault, I think the fault doesn't really matter. When you go home empty handed, it's frustrating. We have to learn how to make better judgment, myself make better calls when I'm driving, help them make better calls. I think we're really working together and understanding what needs to be done to win those races. I think this is a big relief for everybody. I think getting the first win, second win, but first win for Brian, it's a big boost for the whole team. We just got to keep, you know, doing our job. I guarantee you we're going to have good weeks and bad weeks and you'll hear things on the radio, hopefully not as much.
Question: Jacques Villeneuve said his experience in Formula One helps him on road courses. Do you find anything from your Formula One days that helped you in a stock car?
Montoya: Does it help? I don't know. I'm sure how. I'm sure it does, but they're so different. I mean, if you know what I feel when I drive these cars against, you know, an open wheel car. I'll put it this way. I sit down in the Grand Am car that is like an intermediate thing and I feel really weird in a Grand Am car. I wouldn't see myself in an open wheel car, to be honest, again.
Question: You made the Chase last year; this year has been a struggle. Can you compare the emotions?
Montoya: To tell you the truth, the Chase, I think it's been for a while realistic that to make it you need a miracle. Win one week, lose another. I made a lot of mistakes this year. I hurt the team a lot from that point. You know, you work on what you got and that's it. I think it's not all terrible. I think we can learn a lot this season on how to execute a little better and that's it. Prepare ourselves for next season. It's kind of funny. I think last year we didn't have the pace we have this year and we made the Chase pretty easy, I thought. This year we had two cars capable, easily making the Chase, and both cars are out. That's what it is, I guess.
Question: The 113-race winless streak was the longest of your career. Did you ever start to think you wouldn't win again?
Montoya: Not really. I don't think about it. I just get in the car, drive it. You got to have a positive mind every week that you can get the job done. Sometimes I even talk myself out of a good result.