After a 2009 when Juan Pablo Montoya made a surprise entry into the end of season Chase, the Columbian will start his second year with Chevrolet from the fourth row on Sunday, though according to the man himself that “doesn't really matter”.
“It’s such a long race that it doesn’t really matter where you start,” he says. “The big thing is that we’ve got a good car and that goes a long way.”
“You have to be smart,” he continued moving onto what he feels is necessary for success Sunday. “In the Shootout I pushed [Greg] Biffle really hard and damaged the front of the car. I went too hard.”
“The rules are a little more relaxed, so you don’t have to worry about oh, you know, you never know how they are going to react when you push people too much yourself. So that’s better. And I think with the new restrictor makes racing a lot better. You get more of a run. You always get more of a chance, but more of a chance is more of a wreck.”
“People are racing really clean but you’re pushing and you know, yesterday was only half a field. And it was out of control. It was good, but it was out of control. I think it’s going to be interesting because you’re going to have a lot of the good cars up front because the way the tires wear and everything at the end they’re going to be a handful. But yeah, it makes it interesting.”
Montoya also sheds light on what the teams have learnt from the Speedweeks build-up to Daytona, in particular the end of the 150 mile qualifying races run on Thursday where both races were won by fractions of a second by the driver on the lower line.
“Well, I don’t know,” answered Montoya when he was asked if he knew the reason for the higher line coming up short, including the second race when he pushed Tony Stewart to second place. “We were coming. I could have hit Tony in the tri-oval but most likely I would have wrecked him into [eventual winner Kasey Kahne].”
But what did Montoya learn?
“I realized I’ve got to have this car next week; or on Sunday at least.”
And that most important question. What does he expect from the race, the car, the tyres and his competitors during the Daytona 500.
“Well, the first 50 laps it is fine,” he starts, on the tyres. “Well, probably not 50; let’s say 10 laps. It’s like you can two wide easy. The guy in the middle, it’s a struggle. Yesterday I got dropped in the middle and just had to go to the back. You know, it’s a qualifying race and of course you want to have a good finish, but if you don’t you still have the same car. So I was pretty cautious about that.”
“When the tires get old and the guy on the bottom most of the time starts getting tight, and when they start getting tight they start running into the other people. That’s the problem. When you run high, then your problem is the wall. You start in coming off the corner and get tight and you’ve got to get off the gas and sometimes even hit the brakes and that’s where the whole line stacks up.”
“I wouldn't be surprised that we will have more than one green-white-chequered,”
But what if Montoya find himself in the leading pack in the final moments of the race. Will he use the seemingly out of luck outside line?
“You just don’t care. You only have to run another 100 yards, so you’ll probably make it even you’re going the wrong way!”
Hopefully it won't come down to that.