Indy 500: Team Penske press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Roger, why do you like to gamble on Pole Day? Why is it important to gamble on Pole Day? Helio, everybody talks about the pressure as a driver here, do you like the challenge? What does that do to...

Continued from part 1

Q: Roger, why do you like to gamble on Pole Day? Why is it important to gamble on Pole Day?

Helio, everybody talks about the pressure as a driver here, do you like the challenge? What does that do to you?

CASTRONEVES: Well, it is, like I said, it's two races. It's fun. I mean, when you're in that scenario that you know you can get the No. 1 spot, I mean, you're going to do everything you can. The good news is I have great guys beside me that you can position yourself, put yourself in that kind of position. For me it's just awesome to do something that depends on the weather, depends on the car and then trying to find that edge. I think it's fun. Every driver wants to go out there and be the No. 1. Doesn't matter if you win the race or be in the pole position, you're always going to be the fastest guy, and that's the way I enjoy it.

PENSKE: I think from the team's perspective, the notoriety that you get for sitting on the pole at the Indianapolis 500 over the next two weeks or two-and-a-half weeks, whatever it is prior to the race, you never have that opportunity in any other sport. If it's a golf match, you're there for one day, but with the press coverage and the media coverage today and the interest and the Internet, I think it's probably one of the most powerful messages that you can send about the team and the driver.

So we've always focused on it. We've taken a lot of risk. We've pulled guys out when they had good times. You know, we could be a hero or it could be a dog and many times like that. But that's what we have to do here. The good news is that Rick certainly was captain of that and Helio, and Sam, too, not afraid to go back out again and throw their time out. We're in a high risk. It's a high-risk ballgame. Helio maybe didn't say it, but with a lot of new people here, they're good drivers, but have not experienced the winds different today than it was maybe Tuesday or last weekend; and that's going to affect them as we start trimming out the cars. We know we can go quick, and it's got to be tomorrow under tomorrow's conditions. You can be perfect today and tomorrow we'll get out -- we've had that happen to us one year when we thought we were really going to be ready and we got out here on qualifying morning and couldn't even drive the cars because we had them trimmed out so much.

So I think it's a high-risk poker game over the next 24 hours. What we need to do today is not make a mistake. The big issue today is you can get so far behind, you can get your driver hurt, you can wreck your car by getting too fancy. To me someone trying to get by someone to get a fast lap in the draft, that's going to be interesting to watch here the next two or three hours.

Q: Roger, a couple people have addressed the question of this group of new drivers, rookies or whatever. How negatively impacted is this rainout, lack of time going to be for them?

PENSKE: Well, I think, Chuck, if you go back, you know, in the old days we used to have to run at Trenton, you have to run at Phoenix before you can get a chance to run here. One of the good things with the unification, they did it in a time where these drivers had a chance, I think the majority of them, to run at Homestead. So it was high speed, wheel-to-wheel, coming in the pits. And we had another race at Kansas, to me that's a real plus. A lot of good drivers. Just don't have the confidence yet. I don't think anybody they have in the field today isn't capable of winning.

We've had years around here where people bought a ride Wednesday afternoon and got in the qualifying. We're not in that mode at all. I think the way the process has gone and the quality of the drivers, I think you're going to see some pretty exciting guys out there that will run very well in this race. So what they need to do is just be careful here in the next 24 hours.

Q: Roger, just talk about what it means to you to finally be back at Indy with everybody being back together over the years, and Helio, from your standpoint, a chance to be in your third win and there's one league with everybody back.

PENSKE: Well, we made the decision seven or eight years ago, and our sponsors did, too, that said the Indianapolis 500 is the anchor for open-wheel's racing and that we were going to be part of it. Lots of people, myself, Mario (Andretti) and other people were involved over the last number of years trying to bring this thing together. I take my hat off to Tony (George), who stuck to his guns, he wanted to have one series but you didn't want to have a combination of too many people at the top. Fortunately, Jerry Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven were able to come to a decision in the best interests of their investments, along with the Speedway, that Tony is the one that they should go with.

I think it's very positive coming together. A lot of people have been bruised because of the split, and now I'm seeing some momentum, I don't think this is going to be a rocket going off overnight, but I think there's a lot of positive comments. You know, this sport today per mile is the most inexpensive when you look at being able to put a car on the track here. A million-dollar engine lease for a year, you can buy a car for $350,000, there's used cars, used pieces, that's the way it was in the old days. And that's positive. We don't need $20 million budget to go racing open-wheel. That's going to prove successful, and we'll gain some teams and the mix of road races and ovals, I think that's important. That will draw in more people. That's one of the benefits we have with Ryan with his capability on road races, it will give him an edge on road races where he has to pick up his game on ovals. I think pulling it together is positive.

Plus, we're going to end up in some markets that were really blacked out because one series had a date and the other didn't. So when we look at the best markets to be in, that's going to drive positive for future sponsorship.

CASTRONEVES: For me it's an honor and blast to be in this spot right now. Winning twice, it's just an amazing situation. Thinking about going for a third win is just, also, to put myself in a very exclusive spot. But obviously right now we're thinking about to do everything we can to go step by step, and hopefully that will happen.

Talking about the merge, I mean, for me having everyone here, even though we're talking about those guys are rookies, but they are not rookies, you know. It's the quality of the drivers, the quality of the teams, it is increasing so much. That's what Roger said about, Wednesday we have situations that the guy is buying a ride, you know, and going all of a sudden in the last minute and they don't know what to do. At the least what I felt in the race that is we ran in Homestead and in Kansas, even if they wasn't up to speed but at least they knew what they were doing. They were actually understanding and learning and finishing the races to make sure when they come to Indy, obviously they're going to have the time to improve.

So it's great to have everybody around. It's more competition. Like I said, so it's going to be even tougher out there on the day of the race.

Q: For Helio or Ryan, they've reconfigured the infield at the south end for the MotoGP course, did you notice the difference in Turn 1?

CASTRONEVES: For me, Turn 1 is too fast, so I don't have enough time to look around. I'm focusing on that, hold my breath and sometimes I close one eye. (Laughter)

BRISCOE: Yeah, as far as the corner, actual radius goes and everything, everything is exactly the same. It looks a bit different leaving the pits when you're on pit lane itself. But the actual corner is exactly the same. You're focused on your turning-in point and apex and exit points so much that you don't really notice all the other roads around the track.

Q: Over the 40-some-odd years you've been coming here, Roger, you've had a bunch of drivers that you have been able to throw up. Usually the cream of the series in that given year. This is really a question for Tim, as well. When you're putting the team together, you've got two, maybe three guys that you have got to run for you, what is it you're looking for and the chemistry, or are you just looking for the two best guys you can put in the cars?

PENSKE: Well, I think, you know, obviously the first thing we look at is drivers who have won in some type of racing. Because if you don't know how to win, it's hard to jump into this league at this speed without having that type of experience. I think No. 2, quality that's most necessary today is understanding the technical part of the car and the feedback that a driver can give the team, the engineering. Then the third piece, obviously, is the commercial value of the individual driver with interfacing with the media, interfacing with sponsors.

Then, also, does he fit into our team? We have a very close-knit group, many know us from the inside, some don't. We have a lot of loyalty, we think confidentiality is key within the sport. Remember we were doing the Mercedes engine, and we said if we talk about this, it's like cutting off your paycheck.

So I think the ability for us to see Ryan, obviously Hornish we knew was someone who was good, he beat us and we had the opportunity to bring him on the team. Someone like Helio opens his arms to a driver, even though they're going to compete like hell with each other and maybe on the track someday one will get in each other's way and they'll have a discussion about it. But overall, we always say if one driver wins, the team wins. If you're on the team, you're not trying out to get on this team, you're on it. If we're not the best team to drive for, you're going to go someplace else anyhow. And if you don't get the job done, we're probably going to replace you with somebody else. So I think there's good checks and balances.

CINDRIC: He covered it all. (Laughter) Exactly what he said. It's good to see, you know, one thing like with Helio when he came to our organization, the circumstances weren't real simple. It was a little difficult for him to come in that situation. But to give him his first win back in Detroit in 2000, and we're going to see that same situation with Ryan, it's great to be in that position to give somebody like that an opportunity and somebody take advantage of it like Helio has.

Q: If I could get Rick and Tim to kind of weigh in on the question Terry asked earlier. I know when you were a rookie here maybe the last year before everything was truly on the same page in terms of the sanctioning body race, the team, et cetera, and from Tim's standpoint, the value now of everybody being all together. Just basically your thoughts on everybody being together.

MEARS: I think it's great. Obviously the more, the merrier, that's the way I've looked at it. And to get everybody back on the same page and be able to get out here and compete, it just raises the bar. That's what this sport is all about. It's about competing, for me anyway, the fun part was the competition. So, you know, if you can raise the bar and get the numbers up and the quality of the teams and drivers, it's just going to be that much more competitive. That makes it more fun. So I think it's just great across the board for everybody.

CINDRIC: From my perspective, I think what's great is if you look at the odds of the different drivers winning the race when it comes down to Race Day, back in the so-called heyday of the Indianapolis 500, I think there's more people capable of winning this race than what there has been even in the perceived best years of the race. That's what we like is the competition. When you won, you won something.

Q: With more cars out there this year, it takes a little longer qualifying than what you did the last two years, how does that affect your strategy during the course of the day tomorrow to make sure you're where you want to be at the end of the day?

CINDRIC: Tomorrow, the first thing you look at is the weather and you look at the number of people that are capable of being in the top 11, and there's certainly more people capable of being in the top 11 than there has been in recent years. That makes that line longer from 4:00 to 6:00. Last year if you look back, I think Helio and Tony had a pretty big race for it there at the end. I think Tony was the last one to go out there or very close. But what you've got to remember is there weren't any accidents between 4 and 6:00 last year, and that happens, that whole starting field might be a little different.

So there are a lot of things that are out of your control. You can make the best strategic decision about when to be in line and you still might not get to go, and you still might not have a time on the board. There's a lot of risk to take playing that game from 4 to 6. So you have to understand if you're realistically going for the top 11 or are you going for a chance for the pole or the front row. That's what you have to weigh with these guys.

Q: Ryan, if it gets around to you, I'm sure any question you have, they have an answer for. Is there a certain comfort level or just being around these guys, what are they going to tell you that kind of makes you feel secure about driving?

BRISCOE: Yeah, it's definitely a huge bonus coming in to this game with the experience around me, and Rick from even last year at the '500,' you know, been keeping a close eye. As he said before, it's not about sort of telling us how to drive the car and stuff but just little bits of advice here and there and talking about the patience and not get ago head of ourselves and really keeping the eye on the big picture and what's most important. For sure, at the end of the day, I come back to the box and, you know, we can sit down and talk about everything. Helio and I can compare notes; it's all very good information. You know, it's information that's won multiple Indy 500s, so that's definitely going to be a big help for me.

CASTRONEVES: And I'm still learning, actually. Every time I come, I ask Rick, I say, "Rick, what do I do now?" And he helps me out. And I listen, because I don't have all the answers, trust me.

SULLIVAN: I know some of you had some questions, but I've been asked to bring this to a close. Generally speaking, this individual is pretty good about letting us know this, but I think tomorrow is Helio's birthday.

CASTRONEVES: Yes, that's right. My birthday, don't forget my present. (Laughter)

SULLIVAN: It is officially Helio Castroneves Day tomorrow. Thank you very much for coming in.

-credit: ims

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Series INDYCAR