IRL: Indy 500: Fast Friday press conference - Team Penske, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: First of all, if anyone knows, can you comment on how much work truly goes into winning here? And after that comment, would you just talk about Sam, and you've had a lot of great drivers obviously if your history, just...

Continued from part 1

Q: First of all, if anyone knows, can you comment on how much work truly goes into winning here? And after that comment, would you just talk about Sam, and you've had a lot of great drivers obviously if your history, just kind of where does he rank among those drivers?

PENSKE: Well, when you talk about the drivers, I learned this a long time ago, they are often great and they have to peak here at a certain time to win this race. I think that, you know, Sam's goal is to win Indy. When we shook hands the first time to put our deal together, we said that one of the goals was to win Indianapolis. I said it might not come the first year; it didn't.

But it was just like the first win. When a driver comes to your team, that breaks the ice for us. When we had a win in the first race, it took us ... we had up and downs, and but at the closeout of Indy last year, I said it was Sam that won that race. It wasn't anything else. It was Sam that won it last year, and I take my hat off.

I don't have a favorite driver. I think I have to work on his car, and I'm racing Tim as hard as we can. But on the other hand, when we can work together, we will. I think that's been part of the success here over the many years that we've been here is the fact that the free flow of information between the teams. There's nothing that's not available, and I think these guys talk to each other because, you know, the little things they might learn, they might learn maybe whatnot to do rather than what to do and I think that's paid off a lot.

The success has been the experience with the people. Just you go down and take a look at the cars, these cars in the garage today. Every seam on those cars has been booked months ago; the cars we've been working on just to get them as aerodynamically slick as we can. Doesn't mean we'll win the race, but the details, the aerodynamic pieces, those are the things that are going to make the difference. Fortunately we have people that have been here, understand those effects.

Overall, the reason we've been successful is we've had good leadership, and certainly Sam, he came to the track with his dad and had it in his blood and certainly has been able to deliver that same execution. We're going to try to do that again. We feel no less competitive starting in this race. In fact, if you think about it, with Sam now won a race and he sees what can happen at the end, I think that these two guys probably have a better chance than they even did last year because of his experience. We got into an issue mid-race trying to catch up there and maybe had to think a little because you have to be there for that last dash, which we will this year. So I think we come into the race with some of the people you have to beat.

MODERATOR: Formal welcome to Helio Castroneves, who will not have to answer this question this year, when do you think you will win the Indianapolis 500; and Sam Hornish Jr. is delighted to be through with that question; and a guy that's been also a big part of the success, president of Penske Racing, Tim Cindric, and we'll continue with the questions.

Q: If I understand correctly, we have smaller fuel tanks now, how will that change the challenges you're going to have on the pit stops?

PENSKE: That's one of the things Tim has really emphasized since the beginning of the season. We have a trainer that's working with our crews; if fact, if you come down to the shop, and you're all invited, we have electric Indy car that we use as a pit training car.

So I think it's once or twice a week we train the stops because today we can fuel as fast as we can change the tires so we don't have a situation today where you're waiting for the fuel. So it's going to be really important on execution from the standpoint of the pits, and I think that's the biggest area. Everybody is going to have to stop at the same time, but running the same engines, and you can run them a little leaner, there is some adjustment in the cockpit.

But I think the real execution is going to have to be in and out of the pits. If you can't pass on the track, and many of the times the advantage of getting in and out of the pits quicker is the difference. So there's an element of trying to go too quick, but that's a real focus for us, and I think it's going to make it interesting with more stops.

Q: What you said about Sam in NASCAR, is the ball still in his court, meaning if he came to you regardless of performance and said, "I want to be in Cup next year," would you still do your best to put him in one of your cars next year?

PENSKE: He has not asked me that question, and if he did, I think we would have a discussion to see what's the long-term strategy.

But I talked to our sponsors, and we made a commitment as we joined together to look at the success he could gain through open-wheel racing. And then he had some interest in NASCAR; and the good news is we have a program that he could get into running some Busch races. But that wasn't based on any guaranteed future, like Helio was able to run at Sebring, you know, with the Porsche team and will run again in Atlanta. So it's a real open book. I don't think we're in any ... we're not at a point here to make any decision.

Q: We talked to Roger and Rick about the new qualifying format, and we're finally going to get to use it tomorrow with the nice weather and the forecast. How big of a chess game do you think it's going to be between the two of you and the two Ganassi drivers? They have been fast all month. Just how big of a chess game do you think that's going to be with you guys?

SAM HORNISH JR.: Indianapolis, anything can change, we might not get to see it but definitely the first time that Penske played out with 11 cars, you're going to see probably the top 18 fastest cars that are going to try to work their way in and bump through those 11 spots.

But also the addition of being able to complete three attempts, you know, to bump three times basically means that you could be sitting second, and you thought that you found enough in the car to go out there and risk taking a chance to move up one spot, to be able to start from the pole, it would be pretty interesting.

I think you're going to see a lot of action early on. Everybody is going to run through that first time and see where they are at and put a time on the board. And you're going to see a lot of waiting, a lot of practice. And it's probably going to be a lot of the way it used to be on the final day of qualifying when everybody; you know, pushing down at the same time, fighting for a spot to be able to be the last guy to go out and put up a time. It will be interesting to see how it works out, and hopefully we'll figure out the right times to run and make the right decisions.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Pretty much what Sam said, we experienced it once in 2005, obviously we didn't have the new rules before, but the way the competition is this year seems to be unbelievably tight, and this is definitely going to create an excitement for especially the top 11. You're probably talking about one-, maybe, two-mile difference, and when you see something like that, every team thinks they have a chance to bump someone else or improve their position. We feel that we have continued working and feel that it's going to be an interesting day. I'm sure not only us, but a lot of guys are going to show a little bit their hands, and, for sure, you're going to have a little bit of what it might be for tomorrow's time.

Q: The rear wing adjuster that you guys filled up last year, have you used your own in practice so far, and are there more than two at this time?

HORNISH: Not sure what you mean by "more than two," but last year it was obviously something that the adjustable rear wing is on everybody's car and just a matter of how you do that. You just don't get into that until the second week, so that's not something we really focused on this week. You'll see more of that next week. Just want to make sure everything is reliable and that's something that's ... the adjustable rear wing is not a new thing here, it's just the way in which you do it.

Q: Do either one of you three have an A.J. Foyt story you want to share?

PENSKE: There's just a lot of stories about A.J. and I think you know ... the story I have about A.J. is that you know, as I came here as a car owner in the early days and would see his cars fast every day, and the orange car sitting up front, I wanted to be sure we could try to emulate him or try to beat him, and he was someone rapid out there we always looked at. You could see he's not going to give up, and I think that he will go down as a real legend in the sport.

TIM CINDRIC: My A.J. story is in my bedroom. I used to go to a photo stop that used to be back in the cafeteria, and I spent all of my lawnmower money to buy his back black-and-white photos to put up in my room. It's pretty cool.

MEARS: I'm not going to tell any because he's still here.

Q: Tim, in the last race, we saw what happened in the pits with Andretti Green, how do you avoid incidents like that on your team, and is it in the heat of battle that things can kind of foul-up?

CINDRIC: Yeah, racing, anything can happen. It's easy to look at it as an armchair quarterback and say they should have done this, should have done that. But everybody is out there competing at that point in time. That's why you have to make sure as a team, we're looking at the bigger picture. If we have one in contention and one that's not in contention, it's our job to win the race. Whether it's the car I'm running or the car Roger is running, at the end of the day, the team wins. And you know, that's what we have to focus on on Race Day and, you know, anything can happen out there.

Everybody's caught up in their moments, and we try and communicate with each other during the race, you know, to do the best we can on situations like that.

Q: Sam, could you talk about coming here as the defending champion and having that monkey off your back and what are the feelings, what's the approach now and having a victory?

HORNISH: It's kind of pretty strange for me so far this year because I expected coming in that there was going to be a lot more things that I was going to have to do and a lot more questions to be asked.

But I think there was so much build-up about the win and the finish that occurred last year that everybody has got that story and it's been told a hundred times, and it's been a relaxing month so far. We continue to try to go faster out on the track, but it's been pretty comfortable so far and I'm just kind of enjoying the fact that I can come back here and not have to take it so seriously every day; and how are we going to win this race; and what are we going do be able to do it win it and just approach it like we did last year and just try to not beat ourselves and make sure we can make it to the end of the race and that nothing really matters until Race Day, as far as we would like to start on the pole.

But, you know, we've got to remember that the big money is paid out on Race Day and how do we get to the last, you know, 20 laps of that race and get involved in the shootout for the win is the big thing. That was my goal last year, was just to come and finish the race and not have the same goal this year; and I don't have to answer all of the questions about, "Are you ever going to win? Are you ever going to finish?" and it's really a lot more comfortable.

-credit: ims

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske