Our series of weekly NASCAR driver interviews continues this week with Juan Pablo Montoya, who is in his sixth season in NASCAR after racing open-wheel cars in Formula One and IndyCar. Montoya is currently 21st in the point standings for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
SBN: What percent of your career races can you remember?
JPM: If I think about it, quite a lot, to be honest with you. Like if I start going back through the races, then yeah. Now, there's some races where you have no memory of it, I would think. But most of them, you do. I can tell you roughly how it went most of the time.
NASCAR is harder (to remember) because we run every week, and you go twice to a lot of places, so it's really hard to keep up. But in open-wheel, it's a lot easier.
SBN: What was the first-ever win you got in any form of motorsports?
JPM: I don't remember the first time I won. I remember the first time I lost, and it sucked. It was go-karts, I was like 6 years old. I was winning a lot, and it was a big, national-level race in Colombia. I was winning coming to the finish with two corners to go, and I got behind a backmarker and he wouldn't let me pass and he blocked me and blocked me. So second place caught me and managed to pass me for the win.
SBN: Nowadays, you would have booted the guy out of the way, right?
JPM: (Shrugs) Yeah, I guess. I would assume so.
SBN: Who is a clean driver in NASCAR you really enjoy racing with?
JPM: Tony (Stewart). But it's all relative, you know what I mean? A lot of people hate Tony because he's too aggressive, and some people think the same about me. But Tony and myself, we just give each other a lot of room and laugh about it and get along really well.
SBN: Is there anyone who you dread racing because you know he's going to drive you extra hard?
JPM: There's a few, yeah. (Grins) I ain't gonna name them.
SBN: What's your personal code of conduct on the track?
JPM: When people are nice to me, I'm nice to them. But if you give me the bird, I'm going to run the shit out of you. (Laughs) Like for me, that is just completely uncalled for.
SBN: How often does someone flip you the bird?
JPM: Not often.
SBN: Do you keep a mental list of people you owe for on-track payback?
JPM: No, not really.
SBN: You're not a revenge kind of guy?
JPM: No. You just go on to the next race. The good thing is, when people owe you, they give you a lot of room the next time you get to them. So it's better when they owe you. It's true.
SBN: Who is a driver from the past you'd like to team up with if you could turn back time?
JPM: Um...I don't know. I've had a lot of fun teammates over the years – some good, some bad. I've made a lot of friends over the years through racing, but we weren't necessarily teammates. I would say Brian Smith, he's an Argentinian guy. We raced Formula Three together and became really good friends.
SBN: When is the last time you got nervous about something?
JPM: My son racing. He's done only one race, and I was there helping, and it was stressful as hell. It sucks.
SBN: Because you fear he's going to get hurt, or just the stress of getting the car ready?
JPM: It's just all together, you know what I mean? It would be weird for me to say I'm fearful he's going to get hurt. It sucks, the thought of it, to be honest with you. But I'm not in any position to tell him he shouldn't be racing when my dad let me do it and I'm here.
SBN: You guys meet a lot of fans, and sometimes they can ask you awkward questions or make uncomfortable requests. Do you have any stories along those lines?
JPM: I get this a lot: "Oh, can you take a picture with my baby? Can you hold the baby?" I don't want to hold your baby! I'll hold my baby. I don't like holding someone else's baby. I'm serious! You never know what could happen. It's such an awkward position you're put in, and it's like, "No, sorry." I'll stand by you and take a picture with the baby, but I don't want to hold your baby.
SBN: If you had to choose one of these two careers after you retire, would you rather be a NASCAR broadcaster or a high-ranking NASCAR official like Robin Pemberton?
JPM: Probably the NASCAR official.
SBN: Why? Because you'd like being part of the garage?
JPM: No, no, no. It's just more how it's surprising me sometimes about the people in the booth, the things they say. It's like, "Really? You raced. Why are you saying that?" I think when people are the booth, they're put in really awkward positions and they say things they shouldn't be saying.
SBN: What's a question you get asked a lot that you're tired of answering?
JPM: Probably something about F1.
SBN: Oh, shit. That's coming up as the next question.
JPM: Really? I haven't been there in six years! You've probably seen more races than I have. And I still get on Twitter: "When are you coming back to Formula One?" I mean, that's a daily thing.
SBN: Well, the question isn't from me. It's from Matt Kenseth. I've been asking each driver to give me a question for the next guy, and Kenseth wanted to ask you: "What is one thing you like better about Formula One than NASCAR and what's one thing you like better about NASCAR than Formula One?"
JPM: The only better thing in F1 was like when you're in the garage and pit area and stuff, you really can focus on what you're doing because there's not a ton of people. But at the same time, what makes NASCAR is the people.
I'll tell you the truth: Nothing drives like a Formula One car. Nothing. But if your car is not good, you're going to suck all year. Here, you always have a chance. I think that's really important.
SBN: The next interview is going to be with David Gilliland. Is there anything I should ask David?
JPM: To be honest with you, I don't know much about him. So it'd be interesting to know how he got into racing.
Next week: 12 Questions with David Gilliland
ARCHIVE: See all the previous 12 Questions interviews from this season