Indianapolis: Pemberton post-race press conference

ALLSTATE 400 AT THE BRICKYARD Indianapolis Motor Speedway July 27, 2008 An interview with: Robin Pemberton HERB BRANHAM: We're joined now by NASCAR vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton just in case anybody has any questions for...

ALLSTATE 400 AT THE BRICKYARD
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
July 27, 2008

An interview with: Robin Pemberton

HERB BRANHAM: We're joined now by NASCAR vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton just in case anybody has any questions for Robin today.

Q: They've had an open test here in the past. Do you think that would have made a difference? I understand the crew chiefs selected which tracks to go to for the open test. Would that type of test make a difference in a case like this?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, I think generally when you have an open test, you already got your tires picked and things like that have already been decided. I don't think an open test here would have done enough for what we all as competitors would want to have achieved. It wouldn't have helped I don't think.

You may have had enough issues that you may have gone back and redesigned the tire. But then, you know, I don't know if we could have done it in time. I mean, hindsight is 20/20. I think we'll just learn from this experience here this weekend and try to do a little bit better job next year when we come back.

Q: Is there something the track should do to help build a better tire? This happened now two big times.

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, this isn't the first time we've raced here with the surface the way it is and we've been able to accomplish what we need to accomplish. So to pick on the surface or anything like that, that wouldn't be fair, 'cause we have been able to do and run full fuel stops here by the end of the race, mid race last year and the year before. I think coupled with the new car, probably not having a test here, whatever, probably didn't help us at all.

For sure you can say the surface is abrasive, but we have been able to accomplish a full fuel run in the past.

Q: What is the game plan for next year for this place? This is a big race. We had the same problem with Goodyear or something in Atlanta a couple months ago and the drivers were screaming about how you need to spend more doing engineering work. Looks like there's a situation where somebody dropped the ball on this.

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, you know, you can criticize all you want. But when you come here and you do have the surface that we got, and I think you need to pay attention to what Denny said. You know, we have to anticipate where the tires and the competition are gonna meet on Sunday afternoon when the green flag falls. We have challenges when we develop tires here because you do have such a dramatic change in surface grip as the track rubbers in. You can make everybody happy on Friday and be miserable on Saturday and really miserable on Sunday, or you can come back and work your best trying to achieve the right grip, the right tires and everything when it comes time to race on Sunday afternoon.

I'm speaking for Goodyear. I really wish one of them were here. But when they did their test, they felt like they were on target based on what we've dealt with here last year and the year before last, we felt like it was going to come us by race time. It didn't happen. Even when we got running this afternoon, we got eight or nine laps, thought we were going to get to 10 or 11, tried 12, never got any better than 11. Really, 10 was a stretch for us.

We just have to take what we learned today and do a better job next year as a group.

Q: Jeff Burton talked about after the race what you alluded to, anticipating things need to be better by Sunday. Does this change the philosophy or thinking or thought process on saying, Hey, it's going to be bad on Friday, we hope it's going to be better on Sunday? Do you have to change that thought process?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Definitely. I mean, we work off a lot of history. We try to develop new stuff. But we also have to rely on a lot of history to get us through some of these things.

All of our events, they're different. We have different challenges everywhere we go. We felt like we were prepared. The only thing that we were prepared for, we at least had enough tires to go the distance, for everybody to have enough tires to finish the race on.

So my hat's off to the competitors to be able to help us manage that and allowed us to help them manage it, and Goodyear to have the foresight to have enough tires.

We know, and I think everybody in this room knows, that we'll do different things, and we can't take anything for granted when we come back next year.

Q: You obviously are right when you talk about how it's easy to look at it in hindsight. Seems to me the operative thing here is foresight. It's a perfect storm of the tire, the car, the surface, new car. Where do you go from here to prevent a disaster like this from happening again?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, what disaster might you be talking about? Next year at this time or the next race?

Q: If this is a particularly racetrack to have all this, would you do a lot more testing? Would you have an open testing? Would you have more Goodyear testing?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, let's look at it this way. It's fair to say we won't do the same thing next year we did this year. And it would be fair to say everybody will put their best foot forward and try to do a better job. But we've also been here 15 times, all right? And in 15 times, the only other problems that we've had is having to really regulate low tire pressures and make sure the teams didn't beat the tire up. We're 1 15 in the loss column. That coupled with having a new car, that coupled with people didn't think we were going to need to test here.

You know, everybody's got a little skin in the game here. You know, I think everybody knew that. The teams knew it. We knew it. Goodyear knew it. I think that's why you saw everybody working together on pit road today, in the tower and in the Goodyear building, to do everything we could to manage the tire, put on the best race we could for the fans.

So, you know, we've got one time we didn't do the right thing. We tried to put our best foot forward and make the best judgment calls that we could getting prepared for this race. For sure, it didn't come off the way we wanted it to.

Q: This is a unique track. Looking forward to the rest of the season, all the tracks you have either been to or they're similar to tracks you've been to. Do you feel confident assuring fans we're not going to have another race like this?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Yeah, we do, because we've been to every racetrack. I think the only one we haven't been to with this car yet is maybe Kansas City. So, you know, as much as we thought Pocono and here is the same, it is for a lot of things. But it's obvious there's not enough margin in the tire. We used to run the same tire at Pocono and here. We can't even do that any more. A lot of tire groups have been separated out for different racetracks.

There are no guarantees. I can say that. The only thing we can guarantee is a lot of hard work by everybody to make sure this doesn't happen again.

Q: Can you recall another race in NASCAR history that a track didn't rubber up like this? If there was one, what did the sport do to fix that the next time?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: I can't remember it not rubbering up either. I do know we've seen other tracks. I don't think Dover rubbered up in the spring like we thought it was going to. You know, you don't know what makes the track take rubber sometimes, you really don't.

You don't know the weather that has been through there, how clean it is, whether the track has been washed or anything, a lot of rain, whatnot. I have not seen this in a long time. I've seen issues that were similar to this, but it wasn't because of the track rubbering in or not.

Q: What do you tell the fans who may be disappointed they didn't see a lot of green flag passing, side by side action that they normally see in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, you know, if they're good fans, they know that occasionally something like this will go on and not all you'd like to think that all of our races have something for somebody, right? Not everybody's driver wins. Not everybody's pit crew has the best stops. And not every race is a barn burner.

But the fact of the matter is we've got 43 teams that are competing at the same time. It's okay. If you're a good fan, you don't get what you want, it's okay to be disappointed. You know, we can be disappointed right along with you. You know, we're here to put on the best races we can, and we do a damn good job of it most of the time. Everybody inside of these walls works real hard to do that, all the competitors, all of our partners, Goodyear, the manufacturers, all of our officials do the best we can.

You know, there's times that you may be disappointed. And that's okay, too. That's what makes us try to do a better job next time around.

Q: Would you consider running either one or two support events to help the track get seasoned in time before the Sunday big show?

ROBIN PEMBERTON: Well, support events, that's a different group of people, not me. I'm nuts, bolts, tires, all that. But on the other hand, yeah, if you look at what happened, we just ran a 400 mile race with 43 competitors and we didn't rubber it in. I don't think a Nationwide or Truck Series race would have helped us today.

HERB BRANHAM: Robin, thank you very much for joining us.

ROBIN PEMBERTON: No problem.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton