Transcript of Montoya, Kanaan going off on Milwaukee IndyCar traffic

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WEST ALLIS, Wis. – I’m not sure if Juan Pablo Montoya or Tony Kanaan has ever heard the term “FIBs” – something Wisconsin drivers jokingly refer to about Illinois drivers – but the two IndyCar veterans did well to hold back acronyms or expletives regarding traffic during Sunday’s ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers.

That said, neither the second nor third place finisher Sunday at the Milwaukee Mile were pleased with the way lapped cars raced them at Milwaukee.

Ordinarily, you’d look at just selected quotes, but both of these two were in rare form during the post-race press conference.

So here’s the transcript of said JPM/TK traffic talk. Unfortunately there were no microphones for most questions:

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Juan Pablo Montoya. Juan, tell us about your race today.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I don’t know. Really pissed off, disappointed. I mean, I don’t know. I felt we had such a good car yesterday, we made some changes today, it wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be.

I think everybody was with a green racetrack. I think we overadjusted at the beginning of the race to try to compensate for the setup. At the end had a little too much understeer on the car. But it’s OK.

Kind of frustrating with the traffic. Really got to come up with a formula. It’s understandable at the beginning of the race that you want to stay on the lead lap. When you have 20, 30 laps to go, you’re just in the way. You’re about to hit the wall every lap, it’s kind of embarrassing. But that’s what they did. I was pretty mad. Sorry.

Tell them how you really feel.

THE MODERATOR: Tony, we talked a little bit yesterday about how strong the team was here at the track, how strong your car was. Tell us about your race and another podium finish.

TONY KANAAN: It was OK. Like Juan said, a little frustrating. I don’t think towards the end we had the car to beat Will. I think we could have been a lot closer if we didn’t get the interference from traffic.

I think when you’re two or three laps down, there is no point of you holding people up for position. I just don’t understand that.

But it is what it is. I know who these guys were. What goes around comes around. Hopefully I won’t be in that position to hold anybody up, two laps down. But it’s really frustrating.
I understand if you’re fighting to keep yourself on the lead lap because you haven’t got a lap down. But you’re like two, three laps down, 30 laps to go, why you want to get in the middle of first, second and third place to affect the race, which nothing is going to change for you?

It was really frustrating. They’re trying to prove a point in the end, which in the end there’s no point to prove.

It is what it is. I think Will had a great car. Congratulations to him. For us, we’ll go home sad. Second loser, third loser, here we go.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I’m glad I’m not the only one pissed off.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Will you confront the drivers that were holding you up in traffic?

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: People that don’t learn will never learn. If you had a bumper, move them out of the way a couple times…

Q. Yeah, you had that [in NASCAR] but you gave it up.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, I used it a few times. It’s just frustrating. I think that’s where the people calling the race, they should help the drivers, say, Hey, you just went a lap down, this is second place coming. You know what I mean? I don’t know.

Q. How did the race compare to the race you won here in 2000?

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: To be honest with you, I don’t remember. I’m getting old (laughter). You were here, do you remember?

TONY KANAAN: Yes. I remember you won.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: We were really quick. I mean, it’s funny because you have to brake a little bit more back in the day so you could accelerate quicker out of the corners.

I do remember we bitched about traffic the same way. It’s just hard. With a flat racetrack, so many marbles, it’s what the track brings. I think in a place like this, the officials have to come up and do something a little more aggressive.

Once the leader gets within a second, give him five or ten seconds to stay there. It’s different than a street course. A street course is a long way around. Here, you get a caution, you’ll be behind the same guy within 15 freaking laps, Here we go again. Sorry.

Q. (No microphone.)

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No. I had a really good car. But I really killed my tires trying to pass traffic, my front tires again. I started gaining on him. We got to Marco. Then Hinch came out of the pits right in front. I’m like, Thank you, again, another one.

You start sliding those front tires, they never recover. I don’t know. It’s kind of funny. If you asked me at the beginning of the year if I was going to be mad for a second-place finish, I would say, ‘You’re crazy.’ But here I am.

Q. (No microphone.)

TONY KANAAN: Yeah. But, you know, to be able to win, you’ve got to finish in front. That’s what we’ve been doing. I think we showed how strong we are. We’re there every weekend. Unfortunately we made our own mistakes in some of the races. In others, it was just luck. I mean, Iowa was unfortunate.

It’s hard enough to win a race in this series, it’s so competitive. We’ve been there. We’ve been on the podium the last four, like we said.

Yeah, like I said, you can hear our interview. I don’t think anybody here is happy about it. Yeah, it’s better than finishing 10th, but I’m still looking for that win. We have two more tries. I think they’re two good racetracks for us. We’ll do our best.

Q. (No microphone.)

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It’s just the nature of the racing, you know. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the racing. The runs that you get, ’cause the motors are restricted for the ovals, the runs you get are too short. You don’t get a big enough tow out of the corner. You can come right off of somebody’s tail, you can barely make it there. Unless they make a mistake and lose momentum, it’s pretty tough.

Q. (No microphone.)

TONY KANAAN: I don’t think it’s the package.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think it’s the person behind the package.

TONY KANAAN: You have to realize you’re not having a good day. That’s pretty much it.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: The problem is when you have street courses and road courses, it’s a lot closer, everybody seems to run a lot closer on setups. I think the ovals, the better teams understand. The drivers, you can tell the difference between a really good driver and an average driver on an oval. This is the hardest thing we do. These are the fastest corners we take. It’s one after the other after the other after the other. You can see the guys that have the talent and the guys that don’t.

TONY KANAAN: You have 22, 23 cars in one second on a mile track, it equalizes everybody like if you tried to put a fast lap together. But like as Juan says, the talent comes out when the green flag drops, how you keep the momentum up. The talent drops, too (laughter). That was his quote. I just repeated it.

So I really don’t think it’s a package problem. I don’t think it’s a track problem. It’s not a blame. I don’t think it’s a blame. It’s just frustrating because I don’t think I would do that. If I was having a bad day, I wouldn’t do that to somebody else if I’m two, three laps down.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: The 67 had to come in for a stop. If you look at my data, (indiscernible) ran into the back of me. I got out of the gas on the straight to let him go. I did the same thing with Dixon. He got there, I just got out of the way.

People a lap down will race you all the way into the corner. It’s like I got inside the 67 once. I let him go afterwards. He drove me nearly over the curb in one and two. I was there.

What do you do next time you’re beside him? You go all the way to the marbles. You want to stay there, knock yourself out.

Q. (No microphone.)

TONY KANAAN: We had the same problem, like he said. I remember us complaining about it back then. We always had.

But the discrepancy between the equipment, it was much, much bigger. You remember, it was four, five, six engine manufacturers, two tire manufacturers, different chassis. It was a little easier to pass the back markers.

I remember, it would get really tough. You could race side-by-side at one point before the Handford device. But I think it would get really tough when you got into the top 12. It wasn’t the entire field.

I think the packages are a lot closer. The quality of the drivers nowadays, it’s actually a little higher. Before you had four, five, six guys that were really good, good teams. You also had good guys with new engine manufacturers that were not good enough for them to do anything. There was a little bit of discrepancy.

Right now there is none. It’s equalizing everybody. It’s tough. It gets to a point that we can’t do anything.

Q. (No microphone.)
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I agree with that.

Q. (No microphone.)

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: How many Helio had? 80, 90?

TONY KANAAN: Will knows that.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Helio knows that, exactly.

Personally, I’m OK with that. Honestly, I think we deserve the championship this year. It’s not like we’ve just been scoring points. We’ve been good everywhere we’ve been, ovals, street courses, road courses, we’ve always been there. We’ve always given ourselves a chance to win.

To me to be fifth the first year back, I’ll take it.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, we will see you next weekend.

Alexander Rossi hopes to dodge oncoming traffic in second Baja 1000

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One of the great viral videos of last year’s offseason was the sight of Alexander Rossi’s Honda Ridgeline off-road vehicle and its near head-on collision with a passenger SUV coming in the wrong direction of last year’s Baja 1000.

The video of the incident overshadowed an outstanding debut for Rossi in the SCORE OFF Road Desert race.

Rossi (pictured above on the right along with fellow driver Jeff Proctor) told NBCSports.com that driving down the same roads still used by passenger traffic is one of the unique challenges of the Baja 1000.

“The most demanding form of racing is IndyCar racing,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com. “But the big thing for me in the Baja 1000 is mentally being able to understand the terrain that is coming at you at 120 miles an hour in the dust and pedestrians and other cars, people and cattle that come along with this race.”

Rossi is becoming a modern-day Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. He wants to race anything on wheels and win.

Since the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season concluded with the Sept. 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Rossi competed in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Rossi drove for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

This weekend, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship will compete in the Baja 1000 for the second straight year.

Rossi will be driving for the Honda Ridgeline Racing team and is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000.

Other Indy 500 winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.

NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.

Rossi has a better understanding of what to expect in this year’s Baja 1000 after last year’s rookie experience.

How valuable was last years’ experience?

“It’s hugely valuable,” Rossi said. “The course changes each year. There will be some elements that are the same, but it’s a new route from start to finish this year. That is why we go down a week early. We do pre-running in a similar type of vehicle and take course notes and analyze each individual section of the course, find the danger areas and what you need to do come race day.

“Ultimately, the biggest thing is having the knowledge of how to prepare for the race and what to expect once you roll off the starting line. That is something I will have going for me this year that I didn’t have last year.”

As an off-road rookie, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“I don’t know that I can pinpoint any highlights other than just the whole experience,” Rossi said of last years’ experience. “The whole week and a half I had down there in 2018 was phenomenal. The team made me feel part of the family from Day One. I just love driving a desert truck through Baja California. It’s an experience unlike any other.

“The entire event was a highlight more than one specific moment.”

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Driving an off-road Honda Ridgeline through the desert of Baja California in Mexico is vastly different than Rossi’s regular ride in the No. 27 NAPA Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series. But Rossi believes there are many similarities, also.

“It’s very different, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, a race car is a race car,” Rossi said. “It has four wheels, and you are trying to get it from Point A to Point B quicker than other people. The general underlying techniques of getting a car through the corner efficiently is all the same; it’s just a different style.

“Everyone here is very talented at what they do and very good so in order to win this race, you have to be at the top of your game.”

The Baja 1000, like most forms of off-road racing, is more against the clock than a wheel-to-wheel competition such as IndyCar. Rossi believes it is a different form of endurance racing, similar to IMSA in many ways.

“You have to compare it like an endurance race,” Rossi said. “It’s a race where the first part of it, you are trying to get through and not take chances and stay in touch with the people you are trying to stay in touch with.

“When you get down to the final 20 to 30 percent, that is when you try to either close the lead of extend the lead of whatever position you are in. That is similar to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It comes down to the last three or four hours, and we take a mentality closer to that.

“The only difference is if you get it wrong at Daytona, you spin in the grass. Here, it can be more dramatic than that.”

As an off-road rookie in 2018, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“The Honda off-road guys and my co-driver/navigator Evan Weller make it so easy for me to just jump right in and go to work,” Rossi said. “I can’t wait to share the seat with Jeff [Proctor] and Pat [Dailey] once again, and hopefully, bring home a win.”

The Honda Off-Road Racing Team has had an outstanding 2019 season, including class wins for the Baja Ridgeline Race Truck at the Parker 425, the Mint 400 and the Baja 500; where the team successfully debuted the second-generation “TSCO” chassis; and a second-place Class 7 finish at the Vegas-to-Reno event.

Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline, finished second in class in 2017 and 2018; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016, 2018 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.

“We are stoked to have Alexander back racing with us in Mexico for his sophomore attempt at this iconic off-road race,” Proctor said. “This year’s 52nd annual Baja 1000 course covers ALL of the toughest terrain and areas in Baja Norte….as always, it will be tough.

“Alex is one of the brightest motorsports minds I’ve worked with, and he is a great asset to our team.”

The Baja 1000 begins Friday and runs through the weekend along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500