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Q & A with Juan Pablo Montoya

Juan Pablo Montoya: "When people think of moving from Formula One to NASCAR, some people think I'm crazy, but I think it's exciting. I think it's a great challenge for my career

"Coming here is probably going to be my toughest challenge ever. I think when you go watch the races and follow it, you know one weekend you can be up front and the next weekend you can be terrible.

"You have 36 races and race against really great guys, and I think sometimes people don't know how tough it is out here and how many great drivers are out here. To come here and be part of it and learn is going to be exciting.

"I think a lot of people are going to build this up and say I'm going to come here and win and do great things. Of course, I want to do that, but I think it's going to be a lot tougher than people think. I think the challenge to drive a Cup car is going to be tough.

"When the offer came and I saw the racing you guys do here, I was really ecstatic about it. I'm glad to be here. I think Chip has great guys around the team and to join them... They've already told me 'whatever you need' and I'm excited about that. To learn and deal with myself more as a driver, I think it's just great."

Q: What kind of testing schedule is planned to get you up to speed?

Montoya: "First of all I've got to finish the Formula One season. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to Chip about coming here, I know it was a road course when I drove Jeff's car and it was a lot of fun. You could push the car. You could slide the car, and it was really friendly to me on the road course. That was really exciting to me.

"I think I'm going to have a very busy winter. I'm going to finish the Formula One season this year, and from there we'll just take it, do as much testing as we can."

Q: What happened with the Formula One options?

Montoya: "I had a couple of options in Formula One and they were completely open for me to sign. I think coming here and starting as a rookie again, and it's going to be a brand new experience. I'm working with Chip again, and we've had a lot of success together before.

"Being here in America is exciting. I couldn't turn it down. A couple of years down the road maybe this option wasn't going to be available, and I didn't want to throw it away."

Q: How much do you know about NASCAR? Have you played some of the video games?

Montoya: "I watched a lot, even before I started talking to Chip, when I was thinking about it. I love racing. I always follow racing. Racing here is so close and exciting. It's a good reason to come.

"I was talking to Casey [Mears] about 20 minutes ago and he said, 'I've done a lot of racing, but I've never had so much fun like here.' That's the reason I came here. I came here to learn and have fun.

"It's going to be tough. It's going to be hard racing. Hopefully I can learn a lot and at the end of the season get good results. It's a long season of racing, but we have long seasons when you look at the number of miles we do in Formula One cars.

"We spend the same amount of days in the car there and here, but here we are racing. When you go to Australia from my house it's 27 hours on an airplane."

Q: What was the final straw in leaving Formula One and how did you justify taking a pay cut?

Montoya: "I don't think you're going to be happy getting more money and being miserable all day. When I called Chip I said, 'Chip you know what. I want to come back racing, and I think the best place to do racing is here.'

"Chip told me I needed to convince him if I really wanted to do this. He actually asked my father if I really wanted to do this, and he said he'd never seen me more convinced. It's that simple.

"It's not how many millions you're making or how much money you're making. It's a matter of three years down the line are you going to be excited about what you're doing or not. I think three years from now when I look at my career I'm going to be happier here.

"Chip is an honest person and he tells you how it is. He knows I'll give him an honest answer and that's why the relationship always worked."

Q: What does this say about NASCAR?

Montoya: "If it was not racing I would not be coming here. I want to work with Chip and have a lot of fun. I'm going to enjoy it. What's your ultimate goal? For me it's racing.

"Formula One has very exciting cars and technology. I'll take that away from Formula One, but anyone who watches the races knows it's not the most exciting thing you can watch. How hard is it to pass a car in Formula One? You pass 'em and you touch wheels and you're an animal."

Q: Do you think your fans will follow you to NASCAR?

Montoya: "I think it works both ways. I'm sure I'll lose some fans and gain others. I'll get some sponsors here in America and for them to see me week in and week out will be great.

"I'm from Colombia and from Miami there is a three-hour flight. To be able to help NASCAR expand into the Latin market with a Hispanic driver is good. I think we're all winners here."

Q: Why do you think you can adapt to NASCAR?

Montoya: "When I started racing cars in Colombia, there were some Trans Ams there at the time. I raced those for about a year and had a lot of fun. I've driven big cars. I've driven a lot of different things. It's going to take me time. It's a challenge and that's one of the reasons to do it. It's a great challenge and there are great drivers out here."

Q: Any chance you'll be moving to North Carolina (where Ganassi Racing HQ is located)?

Montoya: "I've got a place in Miami. I'm thinking about renting a place there because I've got to spend a lot of time there this winter testing the cars and learning the people I'm going to work with.

"I've got to build a good relationship. I think that's a key to success, being happy with the people you're working with and having them believing in you."

Q: What if this doesn't work?

Montoya: "I think at the beginning it would not surprise me. There are great drivers here and it's a completely different form of racing. It's going to take time to learn. People are going to expect me to come in and win, and they're going to think the same thing you just asked.

"I think if you read the press release you'll see it's a multi-year deal. Why is it a multi-year deal? Because it's going to take some time to learn. The ultimate goal is of course winning, but it's not going to be easy.

"I know there's going to be races we're going to be hanging out in 30th place and you've just got to be happy to bring the car home and happy you can race the next weekend. You might bring the car home fifth or 10th or 15th.

"You have so many races. If you have a bad race in Formula One, you've got to wait two or three weeks for another one. Here, you have a bad race, the next week you just keep going on and on. I think it's always important to respect the other guys and the guys will respect you. If they trust you, you'll be in good shape."

Q: How much was it being tired of F1 and how much was it wanting to be in Cup?

Montoya: "If it was more a question of getting out of F1, I would probably call Chip for his IRL team. I've won there, and I could be competitive. He's got a winning car there.

"Knowing they had a seat available here, it was a pretty exciting challenge. My family is welcomed, and I'm welcomed and that's exciting.

"My wife asked me if I was sure I wanted to do the Busch races. I said if you've got a choice between sitting in the motorhome or sitting in the race-car and learning, I'll take the race-car."

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