Montoya Wins at Long Beach
Back toLong Beach start page
Juan Montoya of Bogata, Columbia stepped into Alex Zanardi's
ride at Ganassi Racing and won the third race of his rookie season
in CART, an amazing feat. Tony Kanann driving the newly sponsored
McDonald's car for Steve Horne had the race in hand when he made
a small mistake that put him into the wall. Tony was gaining
at least a tenth of second on Montoya in second spot when he
crashed. Both drivers were in the best "package," a
Honda-powered Reynard on Firestone tires.
Montoya and Dario Franchitti were running in second and third
when I took this shot in Turn 10. Later Montoya stretched out
In Victory Circle Montoya posed before the winner's interview
with Gary Gerould.
The post-race press conference started with the drivers but
Chip Ganassi joined them. From the left: Dario Franchitti, Chip
Ganassi, Montoya, and Bryan Herta.
On Friday during the post-qualifying press conference Montoya
was asked by a reporter, "Do you think you are gaining some
respect from your fellow drivers?"
Montoya's answer was something like, "I don't need no
[stinking?] respect from the drivers. I come here to do a job
and I do it the best I can."
In that press conference he came off mean spirited and belligerent
so it felt good to see him more humble and appreciative as a
winner. Ganassi was asked how he compared with Zanardi. His answer,
"I don't do comparisons. That's you guys' job. They're both
good friends of mine and great drivers. Juan is better looking
than Zanardi, though." Amid the laughter, Montoya's smile
turned into an embarrassed grin and he put his forehead down
onto the table top.
After the press conference it was time for one-on-one interviews
in the glare of the TV lights and camera flashes.
In the middle of the photo is TNN TV announcer Ralph Shaheen.
I told Ralph he looked a little slimmer and he said he'd lost
some weight. "It's tough on the road, as you know,"
he said. "You can snack all day. It takes some will power
to avoid that."
Target Ganassi Racing earned the last three CART championships:
Jimmy Vasser in '96 and Alex Zanardi in '97 and '98. As testimony
to the team's impeccable car preparation and development Zanardi
was third in points in '96, Vasser was third in '97, and he was
second last year. There's not much turnover at the team thanks
to Managing Director Tom Anderson. They also have two of the
best race engineers in race with Julian Robertson (Vasser) and
Morris (Mo) Nunn (Montoya).
Ganassi will be tough to beat again this year.