Gosselin Leads Talladega Testing
September 25, 2006 | 4:02 P.M. EST
Gosselin, in the No. 12 Mighty Ezy Cleaner & Degreaser Chevy Monte Carlo, was unofficially quickest overall. Several drivers spoke about the test and the newly-paved 2.66-mile legendary superspeedway.
Juan Pablo Montoya
On his First Impression of Driving a Stock Car at Talladega
"It was like, Oh my God! I came out of the pits, I went into three and four, started listing and said, "ah, let's just try it' and I just went full throttle and went through it and went into one pretty fast. They told me it flat easy, so to try it. I just went for it. It went through it and it felt pretty quick, to be honest. The car really moves around a lot more from what I am used to, but after a while you just get the hang of it. It is a lot of fun, and a lot of technique. I think experience will help a lot in the car knowing when to run high and when to run low. I am getting there, but it is going to take a little bit of time."
On Getting Juan Pablo Montoya Released from his Prior Contract in Time to Test Here
"It is certainly a lot off our plate, since we got together back in July there that we've obviously been working hard to free Juan up and mission accomplished as of Friday. So here we are. It is certainly a load off our shoulders."
On Juan Pablo Montoya's First Laps this Morning
"He went out the first time and he was flat the first lap he ran by. I think the biggest thing is we are just trying to get some of the basic things out of the way, get him used to coming in and out of the pits, braking coming in off of the track. We are just trying to get some of the basic things over with today because I think that is pretty important when we get ready to start racing and this is a good place to come and get used to slowing down coming in and out of the pits and leaving pit road."
On Whether the Food World 250 at Talladega will be Juan Pablo Montoya's First Stock Car Race
"We're actually taking it one day at a time here. I know at the end of the day today we will probably make a decision. I know there is an open practice in Iowa later in the week. We're going to head there next. We are going to try to get obviously in as many type of tracks that we can. Whether that is in an ARCA car, a Busch car, a Cup car, whatever we can get on what kind of track. We basically freed Juan up four weeks ahead of his scheduled end of his contract. So we have four weeks really here to take full advantage of. We are going to get the most miles we can on the most types of tracks we can. Again, that's something that certainly will benefit us and the team and Juan himself in the short term, but I think really the benefit will come in 2007 four, five or six races into the season. That is what we are really shooting for."
Juan Pablo Montoya
On What it was Like to Get in a Stock Car Today
"I drove an old Trans Am car back in Colombia, but (that was) 12 years ago. That was kind of the memory. I drove Jeff's (Gordon) car in 2003, and I felt that I cut out of the pits pretty good and it wasn't a problem or anything. It's the speed and the banking. The highest banked (track) I had driven is Michigan, and Michigan compared with this is flat. This thing, it is pretty high and the car has been amazingly responsive to changes, and I am very pleased with that. I didn't know how responsive the car was going to be if you played with it. We have done a couple of changes and you can really feel the changes and it is nice. It is nice to start understanding what changes the car will have and how the car reacts, because that is going to really play into our hands later on. When we come down to making decisions in a race, we can know what to do with the car, at least to understand what we are doing, it's really important."
On How he Thinks his Open-Wheel Car Control Skills May Transfer to Stock Cars
"Here, the cars are pretty stable. In a way I think it is going to help because these cars move a lot more from anything I have driven, so you can be more on top of the car, in a way. This is, I think a very different oval from anything else we would run normally. Here you are just flat out the whole time and at the end of the race, it is pretty straightforward. For me, it is pretty exciting still here because I need to learn to run high to run low. You need to run one lap high to build up the speed - - all those things are new for me. In Champ cars before when I raced with Chip, we never had to do that."
On What Factors Will Determine When and Where Juan Pablo Montoya Should Race First
"I think for starters, what Juan said earlier was pretty important. He said he makes changes on the car and the car reacts to changes. He is here today learning about driving this type of car, not only on this type of circuit, but it's about interacting with the people on the team. It is about his interaction with Donnie. It is about them getting on the same page in terms of communicating. Every time you bring a new driver to a new crew chief, or a new engineer, even though they speak the same language, you'd be surprised how difficult it is to communicate some things that happen in cars. So, it is about getting in a comfort zone with that level of communication. We are just scratching the surface of the iceberg here in terms of communication today, just getting a feel for what drivers like, what they don't like, what they really mean when they say the car is "tight." Is that a big tight, not a lot tight, a little tight? There are all levels of that. You might divide that word "tight" into about 50 different subsets. So, when you talk about what the next race is going to be and what is going to determine it, that is all part and parcel of what goes into that decision, if that makes sense."
Juan Pablo Montoya
On When he Feels he'll be Prepared to Make his First Stock Car Start
"It is the same thing. Once I get comfortable and really understand the car and feel comfortable. Here it is good, in a way I am pretty happy you can't run with people, because I am going to get a lot more comfortable. You are not looking after anybody. You don't have to think about anybody, and you can run high by yourself, run low by yourself and run in the middle by yourself and learn to keep the car in different race lines. When we feel comfortable, we'll make that call. It is not only myself, but Donnie as well and Chip. We all together have got to make a decision when it has got to happen, but as Chip said, it is one step at a time."
On What Point in his Career he Began to Seriously Consider Stock Car Racing
"Even when I left KART working with Chip back in 2000, I still had a place in Miami, and my parents still live in Miami. You always hear about everything that happens here in stock cars and NASCAR and everything. I think if he would have asked me six years ago if I would drive for him in NASCAR I would have said no. I don't think mentally I was prepared for it. I still think I am a little bit aggressive, but I was very aggressive then and I wasn't patient enough to really get in the mood driving a stock car and learning to work with it. I don't think I had the patience for it. When I talked to him, I told him I think I am a lot better prepared now than then. It is a long term deal because it is going to take time. I think a lot of you guys are expecting me to go out and win my first race. I don't think it is going to happen, but for me I need to go out there, run, get comfortable. Especially the first year, we need to learn the tracks, learn to understand how the car works, how through the race the car develops to be even better prepared for the year after. We'll take it as it comes.
On Whether Talladega is a Preferred Track for a First Effort
"Just like I was saying, I think you can get a lot of basic things out of the way here. You can make track bar adjustments, bar adjustments and just let him feel what it does. Once he gets that basic understanding, then when you start racing, you can make those adjustments and he knows what adjustments to make. For basic getting in and out, going out and running and making basic changes, it's a good place to do it.
On Perceived Pressure as a Car Owner to Help Bridge Gap for Other Drivers Between Open Wheel Racing and Stock Cars
"There are a lot of drivers watching us. Not only is the media watching and the people within stock car racing watching with an eye, but so are the drivers with a history like Juan has. I don't think it is any secret that with the explosion of NASCAR in the last 10 or 15 years, it has caught the eye of a lot of people. Not only in the media or in corporate America like we so often hear about on television, but the people just in racing as well, have seen that this is where the action is. You know they like to cite examples of failures and I think you can go back to each one of those failures and point out maybe where they went wrong. Hopefully they won't be able to do that to this partnership, and they'll say maybe that's the right way to go about it and do it. I think in some of the examples of prior open wheel drivers coming in too, I think whether it is the driver or the car owner, they made a half-hearted attempt. They've maybe stayed in open wheel racing and sort of sprinkled in a little bit of NASCAR or stock car racing on an off weekend. I know this: Juan is committed to doing this and I know I am committed to making it happen. It is kind of like, to steal a phrase from those poker things on ESPN, 'I can tell ya, I am all in on this one.' It is not a thing of are we going to make it work? It is a thing of we have to make this work."
Juan Pablo Montoya
On the Biggest Difference Driving a Stock Car as Opposed to an Open Wheel Car
"At the end of the day, it is the same thing. It is a bigger car, and one has more technology and the other one doesn't. It has a steering wheel, four tires and brakes. It is a bit heavier and it is going to have more momentum, more inertia, but that is about it. I think the approach is very important. If you think ‘Oh I am not going to be able to drive this because it is big,' then don't even bother. I think you need to have a very open mindset about it, know that it is going to be difficult and it is going to take time. But, if you work at it and do the right steps, it is going to be fine. It is going to take time. There are going to be races where we are going to be good and there are going to be races where we are going to be bad. It is that simple. It is a matter of building up the team.
On his Commitment to Stock Car Racing
"I am 100 percent committed to this and this is the only thing that I am going to be doing. This is it and this is where we need to make it work and that's it."
On the New Racing Surface at Talladega
"To be honest, I've never been here before and I've never been on a superspeedway. So this is my first time here, but the track is by far the smoothest track I've ever been on. It's really fast and smooth; you don't feel any bumps anywhere. They've definitely done a really good job. That's for sure.
On the New Racing Surface at Talladega
"I've been here a lot and they did a tremendous job on repaving. There's not even a bump over the tunnel, which normally when they repave you can feel the old tell-tale signs of the tunnels. But this place is super smooth and it's going to be a remarkable place to race."
On Whether the New Surface will Change the Racing Substantially
"I think it's going to make it more exciting probably. I think for our race people are going to gain more confidence. Everybody's car is going to handle pretty good because there are no bumps out there. I can see larger packs of our cars running together. I don't know if necessarily that's good or not, but you really can race anywhere you want to on there even on our get-up-to-speed lap when you're right up against the wall. Normally that's a little bit on the edgy side, but now it's not even a problem. I think it's going to be an exciting place to race with 2, 3, 4 car wide."
On Getting Pointers from Dad Rusty Wallace and Uncle Mike Wallace
"My Uncle Mike is really, really successful on superspeedway tracks. So he went and took the car out the first time because I had never been here and I didn't know what I was doing to be honest with you. He went out and said the car was good. Then I jumped in and made about 3-4 laps and got used to it. We came in and worked on stuff - - some valances and some front shocks and stuff. We changed a little bit then went back out and picked up a little speed. Everything is going good with me today. He's really, really taught me a lot, like some of the parts of the track where you can get yourself in trouble. I feel like I'm in fairly good shape."
On his General Impression of the Track
"I've been coming here since I was about 4 or 5 years old. So I've seen some good racing. Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr., my dad and everybody. It's pretty much everything I have expected, but it does get a little boring when you're out there by yourself. I hope the intensity level steps up when Frank and I and 36 other cars will be out there. I think it will be a lot more fun then."
On the Upcoming Food World 250
"I can guarantee it won't be boring."
On Going for an Eighth Championship
"It's been a little bit of a struggle this year. We've had some issues: mechanicals, drivers' errors and some bad finishes, which we aren't accustomed to. It's been a little tough, but we have a pretty good cushion right now. I think about 290 points. We're coming into Talladega, everybody knows this is such a roll of the dice. You are kind of at the mercy of everybody around you. I think the track is going to lend for some really big packs. That's going to be even more of an issue. Our goal here is to stay out of trouble and try to run up front. We've got a brand new car. I really think this will be the most competitive we've ever been here. So I'm really looking forward to the race. It's going to be a very competitive race. It's going to be a tough deal."
On Why he is Testing at this Track When he Normally Does Not
"It is probably the new car more than the pavement. This is a different racecar for us. We were terrible at Daytona. We ended up running 10th. That was kind of a lucky deal. They didn't realize they could pass me. They all stayed in line and I was thankful for that. This is a brand new car. It's an ex-Cup car. We knew we would have some fender-rubs and some issues like that, when we brought it and we are trying to work out the bugs."
On Running with a 'World Class Race Car Driver' and Whether he'd Learned Anything Today (In Reference to Juan Pablo Montoy's Participation in the Test)
"I learn from Steven every time I am out there (laughs). No, I think that's pretty cool to have Montoya out there racing in the ARCA Series. We've had some really high profile racers coming into the ARCA Series this year. There's always mixed emotions when they come in with great equipment. You've got to deal with all that stuff. But I welcome it and think it makes our series better. Then we know how far we have to go getting our equipment and ourselves to speed when those guys come in. I think I was sitting as the trailers came in today and the first 10 were, all but one, Cup-affiliated teams. It's going to be a pretty competitive race."
On Whether Talladega is a Good Pick for a First Race for Montoya
"I would like to see him come to the dirt or something like that and make it really exciting. This is a different deal here. This track, here and Daytona both, is all about equipment. If your racecar is fast, you can run fast. We've seen that over the years that rookie drivers come in and you really can't deal with them at all when they're running really good racecars. Him coming here shows the strength of our series and that these team owners are actually starting to trust our series enough to let these guys come in and race."
On Montoya's Participation in Today's Test
"I think Frank summed it up. Anybody coming from Formula One and winning championships racing with Michael Schumacher must be pretty spectacular. I think it's going to be a blast. He's racing here and Iowa. I'm really looking forward to that race. Me and Frank were up there last week doing all the tire testing and we got our race cars handling pretty good. It will be an interesting race and he is obviously a world class racecar driver. We just have to see what he does at racetracks like Bristol, Iowa and those little short track bullrings. But he's certainly the man, the myth, the legend, that's for sure."